Of various complaints lodged already about Minnesota's 150th birthday -- we're not regretful enough; we're penny-pinching party poopers -- all seem to miss this important point: Given the wounds we've inflicted on the land and waters within our borders since statehood, and given that reversal of our actions seems unlikely, what will there be to celebrate the next time around, when Minnesota is 300 years old?
It's been noted here previously that 10 years -- no small fraction of the state's existence -- will have passed before the Legislature next month finally approves a constitutional amendment proposal to dedicate a fraction of the state sales tax to conservation.
Embarrassing as that is (What? Legislators didn't notice the algae-filled lakes and dirty rivers?), more embarrassing is that some of the state's so-called conservationists, having settled for morsels all these years, seem now too willing to kowtow to the Legislature still again, even on this, the eve of victory.
Thereby ensuring, over time, defeat.
At stake is an increase of 3/8 of 1 percent of the sales tax, raising some $300 million annually. A majority of people voting in November must approve the constitutionally mandated increase -- assuming, as is expected, the Legislature puts it on the ballot.
About $100 million would help conserve, enhance and refurbish fish and wildlife habitat. Another $100 million would help clean up lakes and rivers. And $100 million would be divided among parks, trails and the arts.
Enter now the aforementioned weak-kneed conservationists, some green, some hook-and-bullet, some conveniently transgender.
Ten years ago when the battle to intensify conservation in Minnesota was joined, "Missouri'' was the rallying cry. In that state, a small citizens commission, operating on behalf of conservation alone, hires and fires the Department of Conservation's leader and also sets the agency's policies.
The commission operates with funding guaranteed by the Missouri state constitution; money generated by a dedicated fraction of the sales tax.
That model should remain the goal in Minnesota. Meaning a strong citizens commission, or commissions, should oversee not just the fish and wildlife money, but the clean water money as well.
Instead some factions of Minnesota's conservation community are willing to concede, up front, authority over the money to the Legislature, re-casting any citizens involvement to an advisory role.
The stated reason for the feebleness? "The Legislature won't give us authority over the money. So why try?''
Yes, the Legislature will. Here's why:
• Unless a citizens commission, or at least a citizens-legislative commission, is established by statute this coming session to oversee at least the fish and game money, the proposal won't pass at the polls this fall.
Distrust among the general citizenry, particularly hunters and anglers, for the Legislature is too high. One reason: Lawmakers' fleecing of lottery funds, which originally were promised in their entirety to environmental improvement.
• Knowledgeable, and well-intended, legislators -- including Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller and House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher -- know that stopping (never mind reversing) environmental decline will be difficult in Minnesota even with more money. Attitudes must be changed, river buffers established, septic systems improved, shore lands preserved, tertiary plants built, topsoil erosion reduced, wetlands restored and forests conserved. These changes must be inspired from the bottom up, fueled by citizen involvement and enabled by new funding -- not directed from the top down, as too often is the Legislature's style.
• To that end, assuming passage of the constitutional amendment, a statewide conservation plan must be developed by all involved parties following vigorous public consideration. The LCCMR -- Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources -- has ideas about this. So does the Department of Natural Resources.
So do others. One of these plans might prevail; perhaps an amalgam will prove best; maybe an entirely new outline will be needed. What's important is that the plan provides an agreed-upon guide for expenditure of the money, and that the plan, tweaked as it will necessarily be over time, offers a reasonable chance for success.
None of this can happen without involvement by qualified citizens who are passionate about conserving and enhancing Minnesota natural resources.
Nor can it happen without leadership, and without acknowledgement, once again, that conservation is a contact sport, and acknowledgement as well that those who would exploit the state's woods, waters and fields have been with us since statehood and will forever be here.
Feebleness won't defeat them. Rather it will only ensure that 150 years from now, Minnesota will be in worse shape still.
Dennis Anderson • email@example.com