Dennis Anderson

Dennis Anderson has been a Star Tribune outdoors columnist since 1993, before which, for 13 years, he held the same position at the Pioneer Press. He enjoys casting and shooting. Dogs, too, and horses. Also kids and, occasionally, crusading in his column for improved conservation.

Posts about Fishing

Pawlenty Q&A on the Legacy Amendment bill

Posted by: Dennis Anderson Updated: May 15, 2009 - 2:53 PM
Below, Gov. Tim Pawlenty answers questions about Legacy Amendment legislation now being heard in a House-Senate conference committee. Significant differences separate the two chambers, with Pawlenty, below, siding with the Senate bill, which was passed unaimously.

On a radio program Friday morning, Rep. Mary Murphy, DFL-Hermantown, suggested the House might not agree to a Legacy Amendment bill this session, which would tie up about $210 million in spending for at least another year, a third of it intended for fish, game and wildlife habitat.

Murphy's comments angered retired Sen. Bob Lessard, whose name is carried on the citizens-legislative council (the House bill would remove Lessard's name) that recommended habitat projects for the fish, game and wildlife portion.

Here's my interview with Pawlenty:

Question: Regarding the House and Senate versions of the Legacy Amendment bill, and specifically regarding that portion of the bill recommended by the Lessard Outdoor Heritage Council — the game and fish portion — which do you favor, the House or Senate version?

Answer: “I prefer the work of the Senate, because it considers the thoughtful results of the citizen-led Lessard Council and uses science as its base.  It steers clear of politics.  I also prefer the Senate bill because it largely reflects the priorities of the scientists and managers in departments, agencies and councils charged with responsibility for water, arts, history, and parks and trails.   
“This process should keep faith with the voters and the constitutional amendment. I believe the Council's recommendations and the Senate's position do so.”

Q: What about the House bill do you disagree with?

A: “Mostly, it comes down to the restrictive policy language.  There are some minor differences between the House and Senate regarding which projects are funded, but I think those can be worked out in the conference committee.  I support strong oversight and accountability when it comes to spending public dollars.  However, the sweeping policy language in the House version appears premature and constrains the future use of funds.  It takes discretion away from program managers and fails the test of guiding the investments to the most critical habitat projects.”

Q: Is it more that you believe specifically that the Lessard Council’s recommendations are the correct ones to implement, or do you believe also — or not — that the direct-citizen-input process the council represents is important to honor?

A: “Both.  The direct citizen input delivered through the Lessard Council is from well-qualified citizens with strong backgrounds in conservation, resource management, and environmental science.  They have a solid understanding of how the funds should be used.  They grounded their work in scientifically based statewide resource and habitat plans using ecology and other natural sciences to direct the effort.  Minnesotans couldn’t ask for better.”

Q: The DNR, the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources and a host of environment and conservation groups oppose the House bill, and have been very vocal in their opposition, citing it as unworkable, if not unconstitutional. The Senate, on the other hand, unanimously passed a bill backing the Lessard Council’s recommendations. In the face of such widespread opposition, and a diametrically different Senate bill, the House passed its bill anyway. Do you know why the House has taken the position it has — political leverage, perhaps? — or, can you speculate?

A: “Their actions are unfortunate and disappointing.  I’ve heard lots of concerns, but I haven’t heard from any conservation, environmental, or interested organization in support of the House version.” 

Q: A conference committee will meet to determine if a compromise bill can be worked out. If the Lessard portion of the bill doesn’t emerge in a final bill relatively consistent with the Senate position, will you veto the entire bill — and delay until next year at the earliest funding not only for game and fish habitat, but for clean water, the arts and cultural heritage?

A: “I have sent a letter to the conferees that calls for straightforward bill implementing the Lessard Council’s recommendations.  When it comes to the other funds, I would be much more agreeable to what’s in the Senate position.   It’s critical that any policy affecting future use of the Legacy Amendment funds be grounded in a strong consensus held by all interests.  The controversial policy and planning language in the House version should be left behind in the conference committee room.”

Gov. Pawlenty sends letter to Legacy Amendment conferees, frowns on portions of House bill

Posted by: Dennis Anderson Updated: May 14, 2009 - 10:42 PM

Gov. Tim Pawlenty — as have most environmental and conservation groups, as well as the NRA — has weighed in on the Legacy Amendment dispute between the House and Senate, and backs the Senate.

Conferees from the two chambers met Thursday to try to agree on compromises before the Legislature adjourns Monday.

Some wildlife groups, including, are advocating that Pawlenty veto the bill before agreeing to a measure that is substantially that of the House position (see my column in the May 15 Star Tribune, and on this site.)

Here's Pawlenty's letter to conferees.

Groups pile on in protest of House Legacy Amendment bill; NRA has already weighed in

Posted by: Dennis Anderson Updated: May 12, 2009 - 9:24 AM
The NRA has already fired its big guns at a poorly constructed House Legacy Amendment bill that passed last week and is headed to a conference committee, where it will compete with a much better Senate version of the same bill.
Now The Nature Conservancy, Pheasants Forever and other environment, conservation, wildlife, fishing and hunting groups are weighing in, protesting that the House bill is unworkable.

Here's a copy of the letter The Nature Conservancy, the Trust for Public Land, the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association and others sent to House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher on Monday:

Dear Speaker Anderson Kelliher:

 The undersigned groups represent a number of nongovernmental conservation organizations working to protect Minnesota’s natural resources.  We have been very active in supporting the Clean Water, Land and Legacy amendment, and continue to work very closely in the implementation of programs and projects proposed for funding via the Outdoor Heritage Fund. 

 We appreciate the thoughtfulness the House has given issues related to the appropriation of this Fund.  The number and speed of decisions required have made this an unusual process.  Even so, in this inaugural year of constitutional funding, progress has been very good, legislative support to date has been appreciated, and we believe the framework is in place for great success. 

We do, however, have several concerns with some of the language related to the Outdoor Heritage Fund (OHF) in the current engrossment of House File 1231.  House File 1231 as it stands contains both appropriation and policy language.  The latter is broad-reaching in scope and highly prescriptive in practice.  As a result, it will be difficult to efficiently and effectively deliver the natural resource conservation envisioned by Minnesotans with their November 4th vote.  We are also aware that the DNR and BWSR have expressed similar concerns to ours.

We do believe there are good concepts in HF1231.  It is critically important that there be standards governing how Outdoor Heritage Funds are spent; and it is equally important the Minnesotans know how and where these funds are spent.  We believe there needs to be more dialogue to develop the appropriate policy language for addressing these issues. 

Attached iis a list of some of our most serious concerns with HF1231.  As you can see, they span the gamut from high-level oversight issues to those of constitutionality to those of technical inaccuracies.  Due to the range and seriousness of many of the issues and the detail which needs to be addressed, we believe it would be more appropriate to take additional time before committing many of these issues to statute.  We believe the Outdoor Heritage Council could be an appropriate venue to deliberate on these issues and provide recommendations to the Legislature.  Further, we believe such recommendations need to be subsequently vetted through the normal policy committee process.

We respectfully request to meet with you to discuss these concerns and discuss how we can provide any guidance you might request in resolving these problems.  We will contact your office to request a meeting in the next few days.  We know this is an incredibly busy time but these are important issues for the future of our natural resources.  Your assistance would be most appreciated.


The Nature Conservancy            Minnesota Deer Hunters Association                        Minnesota Land Trust

Pheasants Forever                        Trust for Public Land                                                The Conservation Fund           


Problem Areas in House File 1231 (Second Engrossment) ( )


The citations below have been identified as implementation problems by one or more conservation partners, however not all partners have equal issue with individual sections.


Line 4.10 changes ownership of land from federal to state with respect to the Northern Tall Grass Prairie project recommendation:  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been a long-standing partner in prairie conservation.  Original intent of this recommendation was to allow federal ownership to reduce state Payment In Lieu of Tax (PILT) obligations. This change will result in U.S.F. declining to participate, thus incurring PILT and losing federal matching dollars.


Line 8.1 creates the Outdoor Heritage grant program under the DNR, a change from the recommendation to use the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation as the grantor.  This will be more costly to the fund, and is a change made even over the objections of DNR.  The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation has a regional office at Fort Snelling.


Lines 14.33&81.18 would require private landowners selling land to DNR to make public their legal and other fees for the transaction:  While public accountability is important, this is private information and should not be required to be made public.  This will discourage landowners from conveying land to the state.


Line 15.16 precludes use of restoration and enhancement funds on conservation lands owned by a non-governmental conservation organization unless also subject to a conservation easement.  Nongovernmental partners are critical to achieving state conservation goals and providing for restoration and enhancement on those lands should be encouraged. 


Line 72.16 and line 73.12 require funding for public outreach and for restoration audits. This may be counter to the constitutional dedication for “protect, enhance, restore”.  Further, combined administrative expenses are accumulating rapidly and may exceed statutory 1% cap.


Line 79.23 requires that funding for an "entire project" be requested and granted.  This suggests that proposers would need to request funds for development, restoration, ongoing maintenance, and future additions all at the same time.  Requiring a large cash set-aside now, for actions that aren’t required for many years, may mean that needed funds for urgent protection projects may not be available, and critical lands may be lost.


Line 80.14 and the following section appear to preclude spending on “non-native” species, even if these are now well-established and desired by the public (e.g., pheasants, brown trout, and rainbow trout).  This will preclude projects that hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans favor.


Line 80.30 requires an ecological restoration plan on all acquired lands.  Many acquired lands will be intact and have no restoration required, so a plan that meets the subsequent conditions is unwarranted.  This could also pose issues with working forest conservation easements where owner retains right to manage for timber production, not some ecological climax stage.


Line 81.12 eliminates wetland replacement and mitigation credits from any land acquired or lands on which conservation easements are acquired. This eliminates a potential pool of wetland mitigation in areas of the state, such as the north, where such mitigation is needed, and does so without compensating the owner.


Line 83.9 requires the commissioner of DNR to approve two land appraisals in certain cases.  Currently, the commissioner only “approves” (i.e., certifies) one appraisal for a specific project, no matter how many appraisals are done.  Only one can be “correct”, and certifying two different values is fundamentally inaccurate.  This activity is governed already by statute (84.0272 and 84.0274).


Line 91.22 and following section establishing a long-term easement and land management account contains multiple issues and problems, including:

  • Creating a fund that is intended to jointly address the fundamentally different funding needs for easement monitoring and acquired land management is problematic. 
  • Easement monitoring fund assessments are linked to the value of the land.  This not the approach taken by most conservation organizations and is also problematic.  It may well result in inflated contributions to the fund, making many projects unnecessarily expensive and tying up scarce capital in unneeded reserve funds.
  • The current language lacks guidance on the expenditures of the funds.  As a result, all of the fund could be taken at any time for essentially unrelated purposes.  This is contrary to the intention – to secure needed funding for future monitoring and management – and will render the funds unavailable for the intended purpose.


Lines 92.11 and 92.18 require that the "owner" of lands acquired with state funds for natural resource purposes shall contribute 5% of the appraised value to the management account.  The term "owner" is ambiguous as to who has the obligation to make this payment.  Is it the permanent owner of the conservation land, such as the DNR?  Is it the original landowner who sells the land to the DNR?  Or if a nonprofit is involved, is it the nonprofit who may be the owner of the land for a period of time?  The language is also unclear as to where the 5% is supposed to come from, i.e., state or private funds.


Line 94.9 sets up a one-time payment for PILT on newly acquired lands but specifies no source of funds; this will be a huge issue for implementation.


Line 95.25 sets out new definitions for enhance, restore and protect:  These definitions are far reaching and need additional review.  For example, the definition of “protect” does not include its common usage in the conservation field where “protect” means acquisition by a public or private conservation entity or preservation via conservation easement.


Lines 100.3 makes appropriations from the Outdoor Heritage Fund that have not been recommended by the LOHC.  While acknowledging the merit of addressing Emerald Ash Borer, the Council should have the opportunity to review and act on this allocation.


Opening Day: A celebration like no other

Posted by: Dennis Anderson Updated: May 9, 2009 - 9:46 PM

Saturday's opener on Crane Lake, near the Ontario border, northeast of Orr, Minn., was great for us in a number of respects — most of which had nothing to do with the fishing. The fishing is important, to be sure, but our group — and this year we numbered more than 20 — considers the laughs and good food nearly as important to the total experience as the fishing.
Here's how we do it:

Each year, usually in January, I pick a spot that we will fish on the opener. If I weren't writing about it in the next day's Star Tribune, perhaps I would be like most Minnesotans, and fish the same spot on each opening day. But moving around the state is fun, and a good way to learn how to fish different waters. I also think it makes it more interesting for readers if I'm reporting from a variety of places, year to year.

This year I chose Crane Lake because the fishing has been good here, and because we were able to secure excellent accommodations at Nelson's Resort on Crane. Nelson's is a Minnesota treasure, with a great lodge and comfortable cabins stretching along perhaps a mile of beautiful Crane Lake shoreline.

Of course the fishing, as always, was a surprise. I thought we would have a little easier time catching walleyes to eat — and we planned a big fish fry for Saturday night — but as it turned out, finding walleyes less than 17 inches (there's a 17-28 inch protected slot on Crane) was challenging.

We found walleyes that size, but they weren't jumping into the boat.

The great news was that we caught lots and lots of walleyes 23 inches and longer, and perhaps eight or so longer than 25. Our biggest was 29 inches, and all were released. 

Additionally, we saw lots of similar-sized walleyes caught by boats near us.

Great fishing? Yes. And our fish fry Saturday night, complete with all the fixings, went off as planned.

Takasaki wins FLW tournament at Red Wing

Posted by: Dennis Anderson Updated: May 9, 2009 - 6:43 PM

Star Tribune Club Outdoors blogger and Pro Staff member Ted Takasaki won the FLW tournament that ended Saturday, May 9, at Red Wing.
Here's the report from FLW:

Takasaki, of East Gull Lake, Minn., and co-angler Gary Speicher of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, caught five walleyes weighing 20 pounds, 11 ounces to win the Walmart FLW Walleye Tour presented by Berkley on the Mississippi River in Red Wing, Minn. Takasaki had a four-day catch of 20 walleyes weighing 93-5. He won by more than 14 pounds winning the nationally televised tournament that features anglers from 19 states and Canada. Takasaki took home $33,333 for his efforts.


“I am so grateful,” said Takasaki. “It has been a long time since the last big victory. I have been right there many times and this is such a great feeling. If you could bottle it and sell it, you would be a millionaire.”


Takasaki said he started the day in the river and spent time on six spots pulling in his winning catch. “I felt it was going to be a tough bite with the cold front, so I started in the river because most of the time river fish don’t seem to be affected as much with the cold. I got four decent fish trolling and thought I should go after my big fish from yesterday and right away I caught about a 27-incher and came back around and caught about a 23-incher and I knew I had about 20 pounds. That is what I was shooting for.”


“This river has always been tough for me over the years. The real key for me doing well the last four days was being versatile. I trolled crankbaits with leadcore and caught a lot of my saugers in the 20- to 21-inch range to make sure I had a limit. Then I went looking for the big fish.”


Rounding out the top 10 pros were Nick Johnson of Elmwood, Wis. (19 walleyes, 78-12); Randy Stevens of Hager City, Wis. (16 walleyes, 75-9); Pat Byle of Colgate, Wis. (20 walleyes, 74-10); Brian Bjorkman of Fargo, N.D. (17 walleyes, 74-2); Scott Fairbairn of Hager City, Wis. (20 walleyes, 73-4); Chris Gilman of Chisago City, Minn. (20 walleyes, 69-10); Barry Walker of Big Springs, Neb. (18 walleyes, 69-5); Rich Zachowski of Milwaukee, Wis. (17 walleyes, 68-14); and Perry Good of Brainerd, Minn. (17 walleyes, 65-2)


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