Drinking alcohol while operating a boat is one way to find trouble in Minnesota, particularly beginning Friday, when local, state and federal enforcement agencies team up for a coordinated effort to highlight the problem. Dubbed Operation Dry Water, the effort will continue through Sunday, in a run-up to July 4th, a holiday, statistics show, when boating accidents involving alcohol often spike. Since 2009, the percentage of boating fatalities involving alcohol has fallen from 19 percent to 17 percent. Still, boating while intoxicated can be deadly: In 2011, alcohol was a contributing factor in 8 percent of boating accidents overall, but figured in 17 percent of watercraft fatalities.
Minnesota fishing license sales remain significantly down from recent years, due, most likely, to the inclement weather this spring and early summer.
Sales numbers tallied recently by the Department of Natural Resources show 591,864 licenses purchased this year, compared to 713,744 last year and 679,276 in 2011.
The decline from a year ago is about 17 percent — representing a loss to date of about $2.7 million in revenue to the DNR.
Sales this summer are off 13 percent from 2011.
It’s possible license sales will pick up as the summer progresses, depending on weather.
Still, it remains true that many Minnesotans only fish on opening weekend.
Ken Soring has been named the DNR's top conservation officer, and as division director will lead a staff of 250 with a budget of $38 million, the agency has announced.
“Ken Soring has a deep and lifelong commitment to Minnesota resources and more than three decades of experience in the Division of Enforcement,” said DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr. “He has great standing amongst field officers and our stakeholders, which will be very helpful as the Enforcement Division embarks on its strategic planning and workforce initiatives in the coming years.”
Soring began his DNR career as a wildlife laborer before becoming a conservation officer in 1984. He has served eight years as a conservation officer, 12 years as a district supervisor and the past nine years as a regional enforcement manager in Grand Rapids.
Soring also was acting enforcement director for six months in 2008-2009.
“I really see three immediate priorities for the division,” said Soring. “As a division we need to provide excellent service to Minnesota citizens; work to increase compliance rates with natural resources laws through education and enforcement; and strive to continuously improve the ways we conduct our work.”
Soring assumes his new position June 19.
Smallmouth bass fishing is improving quickly in the metro area, particularly on the St. Croix
River, despite high water levels.
Meanwhile, excellent walleye fishing continues across much of northern Minnesota, where water temperatures remain cool.
Smallmouth on the St. Croix can be taken on a variety of artificial baits and flies. Mepp's spinners cast close to rocky shorelines and retrieved at moderate speeds have produced hits, as have a variety of crankbaits.
Stick baits also are worth a try, as are surface poppers.
Skirted Jungle Jigs cast to rocks, or Ugly Bugs or similar lures, also will take fish and can be tipped with artificial or live bait.
Up north, walleye fishing has been good on Leech Lake, also Winnibigoshish, Cass and Bemidji, among other waters, as the cool, wet spring seems to have prolonged the season's best bite, keeping fish in fairly shallow water.
Crankbaits trolled "long line'' style at night are producing, as are jig and sliding-sinker style rigs.
Gov. Dayton has signed the Legacy bill, but vetoed specific appropriations to metro parks and invasive species.
His letter to Rep. Paul Thissen, Speaker of the House, is below. In it, Dayton reveals that to get Legacy out of a House-Senate conference committee, he agreed with Majority Leader Sen. Tom Bakk and Thissen to sign the bill with the two controversial items intact.
Virtually all environment, conservation and wildlife groups opposed the metro parks and AIS funding because they were inserted in the Legacy bill by the House, with particular support of House Legacy Chair Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, and, either implicitly or explicitly, by Thissen.
But a firestorm of calls and letters to the governor's office and residence in the past few days apparently assured Dayton the right thing to do would be to line-item veto the two items. Otherwise, the integrity of the Outdoor Heritage Fund of the Legacy Act would be called into question, because the process of securing money from it without appealing to the Lessard-Sams Council, and instead going directly to legislators, would be apparent.
Undoubtedly, had the governor supported the two items in the Legacy bill it would have cost him in his expected bid for re-election. Nonetheless, it's likely he would have signed the bill as agreed to with Bakk and Thissen in order to get the bill passed, had he not made a contradictory promise — as he alludes to — to hunters and anglers and other state outdoors enthusiasts.
That promise said he would veto any attempt to "usurp the authority of the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council'' — a promise that was recorded on video at Game Fair during Dayton's campaign and widely distributed in recent days.
Dayton also underscores in his letter to Thissen the rift that has grown this session between the House Legacy Committee (and by implication, Kahn) and outdoor interests.
Interesting going forward will be whether Thissen replaces Kahn as committee chair — because the governor is correct, future Legacy bills ultimately might not be passed by the Legislature if relations aren't repaired.
Here's the governor's letter:
The Honorable Paul Thissen, Speaker of the House
Dear Mr. Speaker:
I have received, approved, signed, and deposited in the Office of the Secretary of State Chapter 137, House File 1183, the Legacy Bill, with the exception of the line item vetoes listed below: (metro parks and invasive species).
This decision is extremely difficult for me. I attach great importance to keeping my word. Unfortunately, in this instance, I have given contradictory assurances to legislators during the past few days and to thousands of Minnesotans during the past few years. I have decided that I must honor my promise to those citizens.
I believe that this decision also represents the best interests of the people of Minnesota, who care deeply about the Outdoor Heritage Fund of the Legacy Fund. In my 13 legislative sessions, I have rarely seen the acrimony and distrust, which this dispute has caused between legislators and concerned citizens. The bitterness is not about the merits of the two projects I am vetoing, but rather the way in which they were added and other significant changes were proposed to the House bill.
As the legislative session approached its final hours, this battle over money, priorities, and prerogatives threatened to block passage of the entire Legacy Bill, which contained $496 million of funding for important projects throughout our state.
Last Sunday afternoon you, Senator Bakk, and I agreed to a compromise, in which the above two items would be included in the Legacy Conference Report. Although I had expressed my strong opposition to altering the recommendations of the Lessard-Sams Council before and during the session, it appeared at that time that our only two options were to: 1) agree to this compromise, or 2) jeopardize passage of the entire bill.
At that time, I hoped that the thousands of Minnesotans, who are deeply committed to the work of the Lessard-Sams Council, would accept our compromise. Since the bill's passage, however, I have heard from many organizations, representing thousands of our citizens, who believe my approval of those two items would betray the promises I have made repeatedly during the past four years to respect the Council's decisions.
I also note that investments in Metro parks, including habitat improvements, received other funding from the legislature this year:
• $9.085mm from the Outdoor Heritage Fund for Metro habitat; $33.774mm for Metro Parks and Trails grants from the Legacy Fund; $17.08mm to the Metropolitan Council for base funding for regional parks, from the Environment Finance bill; and $5.62mm from LCCMR for Metro-area habitat acquisition; totaling $65.559 million.
I also note that the following aquatic invasive species (AIS) received other funding from the Legislature this year as well, including:
• $8.526mm was appropriated in the Environment Finance bill to combat AIS; and $9.84mm was appropriated in the LCCMR bill for AIS research investments.
Nevertheless, my line-item vetoes do not reflect a lack of support for the two projects; rather they underscore my conviction that the House Legacy Committee must work with its citizen councils, not against them. I will ask the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council to reconsider these two projects when it assembles its next funding recommendations.
I believe it is imperative that the leadership of the House Legacy Committee repair its relations with the Lessard-Sams Council and the many sportsmen, sportswomen, outdoor recreation enthusiasts, hunters, anglers, and everyone else committed to the enhancement of our state's priceless outdoor heritage. Otherwise, I have serious doubts that a Legacy Bill can be enacted in future legislative sessions'