Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Sarah Strommen rolled out the final piece of her agency's 2023 funding request to the Legislature, saying she's optimistic that lawmakers will appreciate how the mostly one-time money will support the outdoors experiences and spaces that Minnesotans love.

As proposed, the DNR wants $553 million in new money, including $265.7 million in state bonding proceeds detailed Thursday by Strommen and DNR Assistant Commissioner Shannon Lotthammer. The DNR request for state bonding is 8% of the overall $3.3 billion capital budget requested of the Legislature by Gov. Tim Walz.

The state-borrowed money for DNR would feed a range of desired infrastructure projects, from rehabbing aging fish hatcheries in greater Minnesota to building a visitor center and adding trails at the new state park on Lake Vermilion. Repairing airports in Bemidji and Brainerd needed by DNR to fight wildfires also is in the bonding portion of the budget.

Strommen said the bonding money sought by DNR would complement funding from other sources — including tens of millions of dollars in one-time general fund money and $118 million in one-time dollars being requested from the state's budget surplus. In some cases, she said, money from various sources would be layered together.

A project fitting that description would be the refurbishing of state-owned hatcheries crucial to fish stocking, Strommen said. Repair estimates are approaching $90 million. Bonding money could be used for construction purposes, but other sources of money are proposed to cover five new fisheries positions: biologists and technicians who study lakes for the purpose of optimizing stocked fry and fingerlings.

"Some portions fit with bonding and others wouldn't qualify for it,'' Strommen said.

Lotthammer gave another example. Bonding money could be used to improve structures needed to access state parks and state recreation land. But other funding would be needed for DNR to upgrade trail signage or expand its deployment of track chairs for visitors living with mobility challenges.

Strommen said she's already begun to meet with legislative leaders to promote acceptance of the new funding proposals, including higher fees for fishing licenses, boat registrations, state park admittance and aquatic invasive species control. She said the budget doesn't propose any hikes for hunting licenses.

The commissioner said she won't make predictions of what will pass the Legislature, but she said she can't imagine any lawmaker standing up and saying Minnesota doesn't need to upgrade its aging boat launches or add shore-fishing infrastructure or revitalize hatcheries or address other needs outlined in the budget package.

Other money in the spending proposal would be used to plant trees, preserve streams, protect native vegetation and address other natural resource needs, she said.

The overall $553 million in new money sought by DNR would add to the agency's fiscal year 2024-2025 base operating budget of just over $1 billion, said DNR Chief Financial Officer Mary Robison. The base budget does not include bonding, nor does it include Legacy Amendment funds or money from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund.

Last year, the Legislature did not pass a bonding bill. Individual projects included in this year's DNR bonding proposal closely follow last year's request. This year's DNR bonding request is about 20% greater than a year ago.