State Sen. Carrie Ruud lives in the heart of Minnesota lakes country, in Breezy Point, on Pelican Lake. She’s pro-conservation, pro-environment and pro-clean water.
She also believes raising the price of fishing and deer-hunting licenses is necessary to keep the Department of Natural Resources afloat.
And she’s a Republican.
That description, and those political positions, puts her at odds during this legislative session with some members of her party — particularly House Republicans.
“I’ve always been a great consumer of the outdoors,” she said. “I love to hunt pheasants and I love to fish crappies. And in our family we now have three generations of deer hunters. We have a little shack on 200 acres, and we do all of our own venison butchering here at the house.”
Ruud, 65, a real estate agent, grew up in Robbinsdale, the daughter of a farm implement salesman whose territory included 48 states and Canada. In summer, she, along with her mother and siblings, often would follow her father in a camper while he made sales calls.
“One time we were on the road with him all summer,” she said.
Nowadays her summers are spent closer to home, sometimes in a kayak, paddling, and other times training for one of her favorite wintertime activities: snowshoe racing, in which she has won medals in national and world competitions.
For her efforts at the Capitol, she’s also earned accolades from groups as diverse as the National Rifle Association (Ruud is author of a bill seeking a new metro shooting range) and the Trust for Public Land, the latter of which recently gave Ruud its Conservation Leadership Award, recognizing “her steadfast commitment to habitat protection and increased access for anglers, hunters and all outdoor enthusiasts.”
Kim Scott, a natural resources advocate at the Capitol, agrees Ruud is deserving.
“Sen. Ruud has consistently been a champion of sportsmen and outdoor interests, and is someone I personally look up to,” Scott said.
As chair of the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Policy and Legacy Finance Committee, and a member of the Environment and Natural Resources Finance Committee, Ruud is a key player at the Capitol on environmental issues.
She’s part of two 10-member conference committees that will meet again this week to resolve differences between Senate and House environment and natural resource bills that govern everything from the DNR budget, to Legacy Amendment spending, to whether Minnesota anglers should be allowed to fish with two lines instead of one. (“Fishing with two lines is a terrible idea,” Ruud said.)
Describing herself as a “common-sense conservative,” Ruud says she is proud of the bill she authored this session that guides more than $300 million in Legacy Amendment spending for fish, game and wildlife, as well as clean water, parks and trails, and the arts.
Unlike the House bill, which conservation advocates have roundly panned, Ruud’s bill has won widespread praise, in part because it includes, intact, the fish, game and wildlife spending recommendations formulated by the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council.
In that respect, said Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, chair of the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Finance Committee and one of four legislators on the Lessard-Sams council, Ruud “is following in the tradition of most authors who carry that legislation, and that’s good.”
Said Ruud: “I think the council has expertise in developing habitat recommendations that the Legislature doesn’t. It disturbs me that the Senate [Legacy Amendment] bill, which my committee did a really good job developing, is sometimes painted with the same brush as the [companion] House bill.”
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Ruud is an independent thinker who believes too many “lines are drawn in the sand” at the Legislature.
“I like to look at an issue and research it,” she said. “Some people in the Legislature say ‘We’ve always done it this way, so let’s keep doing it this way. I believe in looking at real data to see what’s actually going on, and deciding from there.”
• She authored a bill this session that would allow the importation of minnows from Arkansas. The DNR opposes the idea, fearing additional invasive species could be introduced to Minnesota waters.
“Arkansas sells 6 billion minnows a year to 48 states and internationally,” Ruud said, in defense of Arkansas’ minnow biosecurity.
• Ruud, however, sides with the DNR in its quest to raise some hunting and fishing license fees — a proposal that thus far has gained no traction in the Legislature.
“I fully support the increases,” she said. “We expect more and more from the DNR, and outdoor users get a lot for their money.”
• Ruud opposes provisions in two House bills that would allow counties to develop restrictions on public land purchases, something, she says, counties already can do. “[The provisions] are a solution looking for a problem,” Ruud said. “It’s not my intention to accept that in the Legacy bill [that ultimately is reported out of conference committee].”
• Ruud says farmers and other landowners in her part of the state are already “more than 90 percent compliant” with the stream and ditch buffer law that many Republicans oppose again this session.
“But I understand the [buffer compliance] situation is different in some agriculture areas of the state,” she said. “Let’s figure out how to get farmers in those regions compliant. Are there alternative practices we can use? Farmers know their land better than anyone. Let’s see if they can suggest alternatives.”
Todd Holman, central Minnesota program director for the Nature Conservancy, said the state’s natural resources benefit from Ruud’s independent thinking and her interest in conservation.
“Sen. Ruud is a great champion of conservation who understands the needs of her region, and of the state,” Holman said. “She lives in a water district and understands that protecting land really is good, and necessary, for protecting water.”
Meanwhile, on Friday, the major problem facing Ruud while at her home for a brief respite before returning to the Capitol Sunday was a shortages of crappies.
“It’s too cold,” she said. “We still have snow on the ground, and the crappies haven’t come into the shallows yet.”