“Hundreds of millions of dollars.”
That’s the price tag Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr hung on the pheasant restoration program announced Monday by Gov. Mark Dayton near Nicollet in southern Minnesota.
Here’s a snapshot of where the money would come from:
• $40 million over the next two bienniums ($20 million in each two-year period) in state bonding money to accelerate acquisition of state wildlife management areas.
This funding — like all money the DNR and Dayton hope to steer toward their pheasant plan — is far from a sure thing. Dayton’s administration first has to make the requests part of budgets it proposes to the Legislature. Then lawmakers must approve the funding.
• Unknown (but lots of) millions of dollars from the Outdoor Heritage Fund (OHF), overseen by the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council and the Legislature.
Expenditures from this fund totaling about $100 million are made annually. Funding for pheasant restoration programs bearing big price tags that would expand grasslands and restore wetlands in the state pheasant range will be sought. A lot of this kind of work already is being funded by the OHF, either through the DNR, partners such as Ducks Unlimited and Pheasants Forever or some combination of these and other conservation groups. More will be requested.
• As much as $800 million from a new Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP III), with 80 percent of the money coming from the federal government.
The state’s share of this massive program would amount to about $150 million, according to plans now in the works by the state Board of Water and Soil Resources. This money, which would leverage $650 million in federal funds, would come from a variety of sources, including the OHF, state bonding and the Clean Water Fund, which, like the OHF, is supported by a fractional state sales tax increase approved by Minnesota voters in 2008.
CREP III’s goal would be to set aside 100,000 acres of permanent easements in the pheasant range.
If CREP III doesn’t materialize with significant federal funding, the fallback would be to fund a smaller program with state money.