State lawmakers attuned to hunting and fishing will revisit chronic wasting disease (CWD) next month when they return to St. Paul for a session that could also touch on lake impairments, a new walleye limit and youth programs.
“There’s lots to talk about,” said Rep. Rick Hansen, D-South St. Paul.
Like Hansen, Senate committee leaders Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, and Carrie Ruud, R-Breezy Point, said the ongoing spread of CWD in the state’s wild whitetail population clearly needs more attention. The latest outbreak involves a small deer farm in Ingebrigtsen’s home district of Douglas County. State officials said Friday that a related deer farm in Pine County also has experienced an outbreak.
“It’s something I take very serious because [deer hunting] has such a huge heritage in Minnesota,” Ingebrigtsen said.
Ingebrigtsen is chairman of the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Finance Committee, while Hansen chairs a similar House committee. Last year, the Legislature considered various crackdowns on deer farms, mandating that herd owners double-fence their gates.
Deer farms aren’t the only vector for the spread of CWD. Carcass dumps can also be infectious. Hansen said he’d like more roll-off dumpsters set out at public sites for hunters to discard deer remains.
Hansen and Ingebrigtsen also said they are eager for researchers to speed CWD testing of hunter-harvested deer.
Ruud, who chairs the Environment and Natural Resources Policy and Legacy Finance Committee, said her committee is certain this year to consider a proposal from a walleye fishing alliance to lower the statewide walleye bag limit from six to four. Four walleyes in possession already is the rule on certain lakes, and Ruud said she’s inclined to go along with the idea because it has grassroots support.
She and Ingebrigtsen both said the idea of opening state waters to two-line fishing also is likely to be part of the agenda in their committees this year. Ruud is against it, but she’s in favor of opening Minnesota to the importation of minnows from bait suppliers outside the state.
The DNR has opposed the idea, saying an open-border policy on live bait would invite the spread of aquatic invasive species.
“We spend all this money promoting fishing and we don’t have any bait,’’ Ruud said.
She and Hansen said they’ll both fight in 2020 to block others from diverting money set aside for natural resource conservation to pay for new wastewater treatment facilities. The funds in question are meant for projects screened by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources.
Ruud, Hansen, Ingebrigtsen and state Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn, D-Roseville, all said there’s a lot of interest from lawmakers this year in addressing water impairments caused by microplastics, lead and salt. Becker-Finn said certain House members want to probe how the Pollution Control Agency operates.
The House and Senate will also look at extending a new grant program — No Child Left Inside — that promotes youth participation in fishing, hunting, and other outdoors endeavors.