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The 2011 Legislative session could have been worse for fishing

  • Blog Post by: Vern Wagner
  • August 24, 2011 - 12:36 PM

 For most anglers in Minnesota “Could Have Been Worse” is usually how we respond to disappointment.  Missing from the 2011 Environmental Committees performance were any actions on passing the Shoreline Rules package, fixing the Game and Fish fund’s pending deficit, dealing with the Aquatic Plant management program or improving fishing. The Northern Pike program suffered a hit, as did permanent funding for the Aquatic Invasive Species management program. A recommendation to increase the AIS surcharge on boat registrations sank like an anchor. Increased fines for violating AIS rules were seen as a tax in Minnesota’s no tax climate: as were the proposed fishing and hunting license increases. Some Legislators suggested that if anglers wanted to voluntarily pay more for fishing licenses they could. This got me thinking, how about spaghetti dinners and bake sales? This worked for the teachers in my daughter’s elementary school. We could have DNR car washes, turkey and gun raffles all to benefit the shrinking Game and Fish dollars. I make a great cheesecake.

This year instead of funding AIS from an increased boat registration surcharge (which would have created permanent funding for more Conservation officers) Instead AIS funding came out of Lottery dollars. Given the need to find dollars; probably a good choice since these funds are generated by all - not just boaters and water recreational craft owners. Still basing funding on dollars that were somewhat pledged to other conservation and environmental projects might not be a long term solution. AIS prevention and education is going take millions of dollars and years of work. Currently lakeshore owners are absorbing most of the costs for AIS lake treatments. They have a financial stake far beyond that of the boat launching public, thanks to the legislature's failure to adequately man and fund an effective State AIS program.

 As to improving fishing in Minnesota, for many years former Fisheries Chief Ron Payor, built strong relationships with angling groups. Out of that came groups like the Walleye, Bass and Esox committees. Today we seem to be trending toward less stakeholder input and increased special interest lobbying. Will the DNR citizen budget oversight committee be reconvened and play a role in 2012?  In forming a natural recourses legislative agenda, how can the angler’s voices be included? For the past twenty or so years, the annual DNR Roundtable was part of this discourse. How important is it to have this grassroots conversation? 

 The reality is that managing resources has become so political and most politicians have no clue or appreciation for how much effort is put into proper scientific management. This includes building partnerships and consensus with a wide base of client interests.  The lack of appreciation for the long term nature of most natural resources work flies in the face of the"get'er done bunch" in St. Paul. With the reduction of special regulations for Northern Pike, we saw for ourselves how a balanced presentation of the facts and common sense were ignored and swept aside by committee members with political agendas and personal patronage issues that they placed ahead of the good of Minnesota's resources. This has lead to a beaten down leadership in a DNR that has been unable to deal with a "know it all" legislature who in fact knows little on the subject of resource management except how to profit from it "in the short term". Is compromise the only response that the DNR and anglers have? Compromise used to mean that half a fish was better than no fish at all. In today’s practices it seems to mean that half a fish; is better than a wholefish.

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