Speaking to about 250 hunting and fishing enthusiasts at the annual Minnesota Outdoor Heritage Alliance banquet Tuesday evening in St. Paul, Gov. Mark Dayton said he “did his best to protect the DNR’’ in the budget he unveiled earlier in the day.
Dayton appeared at the banquet’s outset, speaking enthusiastically but briefly, saying he didn’t feel well.
Acknowledging his new DNR commissioner, Tom Landwehr, Dayton said Landwehr “has a much tougher job than I do,’’ adding:
“Ten times more people read the sports page than the front page, and they care 10 times more about it.’’
Dayton also lent support to the appointments of retired state Sen. Bob Lessard, DFL-International Falls, and retired state Sen. Dennis Frederickson, R-New Ulm, to key DNR leadership positions.
This fall, Dayton said he will add a governor’s pheasant opener to similar celebrations noting the deer and fishing openers.
House Speaker Rep. Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, also spoke, as did Landwehr.
“Traditions like (hunting and fishing), not only make our state a great state,’’ Zellers said, “but the envy of the rest of the country.’’
Landwehr said he wants to get the governor outdoors as much as possible.
“I want to make it not only politically acceptable to be associated with (hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities),’’ Landwehr said, “but politically necessary.’’
The DNR will promote two primary initiatives in the Legislature this session, Landwehr said.
One would increase hunting and fishing license fees in an attempt to balance the Game and Fish Fund, which is headed into the red. The last such increase occurred 10 years ago.
The DNR is also asking for a significant boost in funds to fight invasive species such as zebra mussels, Landwehr said.
Other priorities under his leadership, the commissioner said, will include intensifying conservation on the state’s prairies, improving freshwater conservation and recruiting more people to outdoor activities.
Receiving the MOHA Outdoor Heritage Award at the banquet was Garry Leaf, while the group’s youth achievement award went to 10-year-old archery champion Anna Whitcomb.
Two University of Minnesota students and future fisheries and wildlife managers were awarded scholarships totaling $3,000 named for the late Joe Alexander, onetime Minnesota “game warden’’ — now conservation officer — and DNR commissioner.
Katherine Cornelius of Elk River, a junior at the U, and Alex Halverson, a U freshman from Milwaukee, were given the awards.