May 24, 2013
This wasn’t a legislative session that held a lot of intrigue in the outdoors arena. Not a lot of quantity, anyway. Quality, well, that’s another story.
One of the most contentious issues the whole session was the Legacy bill, which contained the recommendations of the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council. In short, the House attempted to change the recommendations and the process by which Outdoor Heritage Funds are allocated. The Senate did not. But when the two competing bills met in conference committee, something had to give. So the final bill the Legislature passed stuck largely truck to the LSOHC recommendations, but also allocated $6.3 million to metro parks and $3 million to fight aquatic invasive species.
MWA signed onto a letter with other conservation groups urging Gov. Mark Dayton to use his line-item veto authority and get rid of those two projects. On Thursday morning, Dayton did just that.
Here’s a link to the letter, which is different than other veto letters you typically see. And as we wrap up, we’d just like to thank Gov. Dayton for sticking to his word, and for defending sportsmen.
May 15, 2013
As many of you may know, the Minnesota House passed its Legacy bill off the floor last Friday night. The vote was 70 in favor and 55 against. Democrats mostly voted for it (one voted against it) and all Republicans voted against it.
So this is where things currently stand: The Senate is expected to take up its Legacy bill on the floor on Wednesday, May 15. While both the Senate and House bills include the four pots of money from the Legacy Amendment, the one we’re concerned primarily with is the Outdoor Heritage Fund, from which the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council makes funding recommendations. The bottom line is the Senate bill likely will adhere to the council’s recommendations, while the House bill does not.
What’s wrong with the House bill? A few things: It moves the appropriations process from the Outdoor Heritage Fund from an annual one – which allows us to jump on emerging issues, fund new projects, and ensure oversight since people who want more funding have to come before the council every year – to a biennial one. It also appropriates more than $50 million next year for projects, meaning the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council essentially will be shut out of the process. It also funds projects that the council didn’t hear, or decided not to fund (including a $6.8 million package for metro parks).
At the end of the day, one of the biggest concerns is the House seems to be beginning the process of slowing chipping away at the authority of the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council and turning the Outdoor Heritage Fund bill into something of a pork barrel. Neither is what voters had in mind when they approved the Legacy Amendment in 2008. For many of us, our belief when we voted Yes was that a citizens council would play a key role in deciding how to spend Outdoor Heritage Fund dollars, and that money would be allocated not based on geographic parts of the state, but that it would be allocated on where the greatest habitat needs existed. It’s our contention the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council has done that very well, and that tinkering with its recommendations isn’t a good thing.
So the Senate likely will pass its bill, and then there will be a joint House-Senate conference committee appointed to hash out the bills and come to an agreement. Pay close attention to who is appointed to the conference committee, and let them know you believe the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council recommendations should be passed as that group recommended, not as the House has changed them.
Gov. Mark Dayton is on record as saying he wants the Legislature to approve the Lessard-Sams recommendations as-is, and the Senate also seems to be thinking the same way, so hopefully we’ll come out OK. Stay tuned.
May 9, 2013
Hard to believe we’re already thinking about August. But it’s true. Why? Because it takes a lot to put on Woodie Camp, so planning must begin early.
The first date to remember is May 17. That’s next Friday, and is the deadline for registering for this year’s Woodie Camp, which, as usual, will be held at the Prairie Wetlands Learning Center in Fergus Falls.
As I write this blog, we’re just more than 94 days away from the start of camp. It’s always an exciting time of year, and one during which we get to both new and familiar faces.
Remember, any kids between 13 and 15 years old are eligible to attend Woodie Camp. There’s $100 due with registration, but that’s refunded once the camp ends. So the only cost to send kids to camp is transporting them there and back.
For more information about Woodie Camp, click here.
Things are winding down at the state Legislature, but there’s still lots of action going on. Finally, it appears the House will vote on the Legacy bill (HF 1183) on the floor on Friday. If you remember, that bill initially was scheduled for a vote April 20, but was pulled from that day’s calendar. So the time to let your representative know what you think about the bill is now.
The Senate currently is working on its bill, and it’s expected that body – unlike the proposed House bill – will stick true to the recommendations of the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council.
The aerial survey that results in the state’s Canada goose population estimate has begun and, as of this writing, it’s possible the breeding duck population survey has begun, too.
The Canada goose survey began especially late this year. While the duck survey also is late, it’s just several days past when it usually begins.
May 1, 2013
Remember how just a few days ago you were outside in shorts and a t-shirt, celebrating the arrival of spring. That lasted a long time, huh? Gives new meaning to the saying that if you want the weather here to change, take a nap. Or close your eyes. Or something like that.
But there isn’t anything we can do about the weather but complain about it, and nobody listens anyway. So we’re plowing ahead, unconcerned about the cruel tricks Mother Nature plays. Yes, our annual Minnesota Waterfowl Association garage sale is set for tomorrow (Thursday, May 2) and Friday, May 3. We’ll be on hand both days – 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday; 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday – whether there’s snow or rain falling from the sky, wind burning our faces, or the sun is shining brilliantly (not likely).
Please come and see some of the good stuff we’ve got. The sale is at our State Headquarters at 907 1st Street North in Hopkins.
Courtesy of Dale Eggert, who handles our chapter development, here’s a list of just some of the stuff that’s available:
Blue Coleman Propane Stove, #20 LP tank and sunflower heater, Hard Golf Travel bag, Box of baseballs, box of golf balls, 2 boxes Clay Targets, Box of book, Coffee maker, six Framed prints, Leather gun case, Computer keyboard, Computer speakers, box of hats, Metal Bird feeder pole, No Trespassing signs, Box of desk telephones, 2 boxes of misc., Baer Grizzle Compound Bow, boat anchor, boat bumpers, Outback LP Gas Stove and Oven, Rod Case, 2 large dog crates, 2 med. Dog crates, sump pump, wildlife art prints, 6 bags of new decoys, decoy line, framed Les Kouba wildlife art, other framed wildlife art – Reese, maass, 2 bikes, deer anthers, wood desk and chair, 3 chairs, TV, lamp, gun rack, downhill skis, 3 pairs xc skis, old antiques’ wood skis, wood shaft iron golf club, set of Mc Gregory Contender golf clubs, Wilson oversize Prestige Golf Clubs, woman’s set of golf clubs, misc. many other golf clubs, tailor-made 7-8 Youth Burner. Lamp, screen tent, knifes, clay bird thrower, foam coolers, Shakespeare Boat Radio mast.
April 24, 2013
We’ve devoted a lot of space in recent weeks to what’s going on at the Legislature, particularly as it relates to the Legacy bill that’s currently making its way through the House.
That should give you a sense for how important we think the bill is.
Late last week, it appeared the bill – HF 1143, authored by Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis – would be heard on the House floor on Saturday. That was when it was scheduled to be heard, anyway, and there were a number of proposed amendments listed.
But it was removed from Saturday’s agenda, and hasn’t been on the floor agenda since. That’s a pretty good sign that Kahn doesn’t have the votes to pass her bill as-is. In all likelihood, she’s discussing the bill with other representatives and trying to figure a way to pass the bill out of the House.
So the bottom line is this: There is still time to contact your state representative and tell him or her that you oppose the Legacy bill as-is.
Here’s some of what we don’t like:
• It creates a biennial appropriations process. One of the beauties of the current process is it allows for great flexibility in meeting the state’s natural resources needs. And it ensures oversight of Outdoor Heritage Fund dollars because recipients have to come back to the council on an annual basis to ask for more money. That’s a great opportunity for the council to say, “Show us how you used the last grant we recommended and how successful it was.”
• It spends millions of dollars next year, and spends money on projects for which the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council did not recommend funding. We all know the Legislature has final say over how Outdoor Heritage Fund dollars are spent, but we also know the Lessard-Sams council has done a good job in recommending projects. If the Legislature spends money this year from next year’s Outdoor Heritage Fund receipts, that means there will be projects funded on which the Lessard-Sams council had no input. That’s not what voters were told when we were working to pass the amendment in 2008.
There likely will be amendments offered to return the Outdoor Heritage Fund portion of the Legacy bill to what the Lessard-Sams council recommended. Those likely will be offered on the floor by Rep. Will Morgan, DFL-Burnsville.
So please call your state representative and tell him or her you do not support Kahn’s bill as currently written, but that you would support it if Morgan’s amendments are adopted.
If anything changes, we’ll keep you posted. We also will try to give you a heads-up as to when the bill will be heard on the House floor.
April 17, 2013
Just when it seems like things might be taking a turn for the better – you know, 45 degrees and sun – bam, you turn on the weather and see we’re in line for snow. And rain. And more snow. And cold temperatures.
Yes, we understand that it is still spring (and fairly early spring, at that), but this is getting a little old. These days, every conversation seems to start with the weather. Heck, even the geese are in a surly mood. Earlier today, a couple of them were sitting on a small patch of green grass and yapping at one another. If you recall last year, lots of the geese already had goslings by now.
This year? They’re waiting. Like everything else, they’re just cooling their heels. There are some ducks around, certainly, but there are big piles of them south, just waiting for some open water to show up so they can get up here and do their thing. They’ve got to be pretty tightly wound by this point, right?
By about this time of April most years, DNR researchers already have begun their annual Canada goose population surveys. And they’re typically on the verge of beginning the duck surveys. Not this year. That’s going to be interesting to watch. Will some birds blow right through the state? Will there be concentrations in usual areas? Given the weird weather patterns we’ve seen, we could see some odd waterfowl behavior and, perhaps, some off survey results. It’s too soon to know, of course, but at least this weather doesn’t stop us from speculating.
On the bright side, all this water should be good for our wetlands. How good? Who knows. We’re still in a drought, and everything was really dry last fall and going into the winter. The soil is really dry, so lots of the moisture will be taken up there. But it’s simply too early to know.
April 10, 2013
The Legacy Committee in the Minnesota House is expected to pass its bill that includes all of the pots of money that resulted from the passage of the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment in 2008.
Those pots are the: Clean Water Fund; Outdoor Heritage Fund; Arts and Culture Fund; and Parks and Trails Fund.
The one we’re watching most closely is the Outdoor Heritage Fund. That’s the fund that takes in about $100 million per year, and the habitat fund from which the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council makes annual funding recommendations.
But if the Outdoor Heritage Fund portion of the bill, as currently constituted, becomes law, there would be some pretty major changes that many conservation groups oppose. Among them: a change from an annual appropriations process, which allows us to jump on emerging issues, to a biennial appropriations process.
Legacy Committee Chair Phyllis Kahn (DFL-Minneapolis) has said moving to a biennial appropriations process would make it easier for the groups that receive funds from the Outdoor Heritage Fund. But we haven’t heard a clamoring for that, and certainly support keeping the annual process in place.
Additionally, the House bill would spend about $66 million next year from the Outdoor Heritage Fund – without input from the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council.
While we know the Legislature has – and always has had – final say over how Legacy money is spent, we also believe the Lessard council plays a vital role in vetting potential projects and ensuring they fit into a long-range habitat conservation plan for the state.
Keep watching what the House does with the bill. At some point this week, all of the Legacy items will be folded into an omnibus Legacy bill. It will have one or two more committee stops, and then will be voted upon on the House floor.
Senate insiders believe that body will pass a Legacy bill that – for the Outdoor Heritage Fund portion, anyway – stays true to the recommendations of the Lessard council, and that does not move to a biennial appropriations process. That means the bill will need to be hashed out in a conference committee.
On another note, MWA is planning our third annual rummage sale. To make it a success, we are seeking donations of new and used items to sell at the same, which is set for May 2-3. Watch our website for sale hours and location.
MWA will provide a donation receipt for all of the items you donate.
This Friday, the House Legacy Committee is set to vote on a bill that began as the one carrying the recommendations of the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council. But House File 207, authored by Rep. Leon Lillie, DFL-North St. Paul, looks much different than what emerged from the Outdoor Heritage Council.
Earlier this week, a delete-all amendment (available on the Legacy Committee website via the link above) to Lillie’s bill was unveiled. While it includes the recommendations of the Lessard council, it also includes a bunch of stuff the council either, A) Decided not to recommend funding for, or B) Never had an opportunity to hear or discuss. Additionally, the new bill would create a biennial process for funding from the Outdoor Heritage Fund, rather than the annual process that exists now. Finally, the bill would spend about $68 million next year from the Outdoor Heritage Fund, with absolutely no input from citizens or the council.
Keep in mind that when the Legislature in 2008 voted to allow voters to decide whether to constitutionally dedicated funding for natural resources, it also created the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council to review projects and make recommendations to the Legislature. Because of that, voters were led to believe that the Lessard council would play a critical role in how nearly $100 million every year would be spent to improve fish and wildlife habitat. As it currently stands, the House bill would reduce the role of the council. What would voters think then?
The bottom line is that the Minnesota Waterfowl Association and many other conservation, environmental, hunting and fishing groups believe the process of the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council is a sound one, and that it has served us well since voters approved the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment in 2008.
The hearing at which the Legacy Committee will vote on the bill is set for noon on Friday in Room 200 of the State Office Building. The committee is set to take public testimony on the bill beginning tomorrow, Thursday, at 12:30 in Room 5 of the State Office Building. Attend if you can, otherwise be sure to let your local legislators know how you feel.
Need to know who you should contact? Click here.
March 29, 2013
From all of us at the Minnesota Waterfowl Association, we wish you and yours a Happy Easter. Hope everyone has a great weekend.
And it’s also looking like the weekend – well, Saturday at least – will be rather warm. Maybe a little rainy, too, but hopefully you get a chance to get out and grab a little bit of fresh air. Speaking from experience, it feels real good.
With that, here’s a look at some upcoming MWA dates to remember:
March 31: The final day to buy your 2013-2014 MWA 128 Gun Raffle Calendar. We’ll be drawing throughout the upcoming year.
May 17: That is the application deadline for this year’s Woodie Camp, which happens to be the 25th anniversary of this population waterfowl and conservation camp. The application can be found here.
July 15: MWA Golf Tournament. That’s right. Our golf tournament is back after a 10-year hiatus. We’re still working to finalize all the details, but the event is set for Monday, July 15 at the New Prague Golf Club. The cost will be $100 per golfer. Monitor our website for more information.
July 29: That’s the date of our $10,000 MWA Cash Raffle. Tickets will be available for purchase from May through late July.
March 22, 2013
It finally seems like someone clued in spring that it was supposed to arrive on March 20. Sure, it’s a little late, and sure, it’s still cold and there’s lots of snow, but positivity abounds. Today, for example, the sun is high in the sky and it feels warmer than the 30 degrees the thermometer reads. And it’s easy to hear the snow melting and then falling as water off the roof.
Pretty soon the snow will be gone and the ducks will be back. And given as dry as everything was last fall, hopefully this melting snow will be helpful in filling our wetlands. (We’ve heard it said many times that given the amount of pattern tiling that apparently occurred last year, there are far fewer wetlands to fill, but that’s a topic for another day.)
As we do every spring, the Minnesota Waterfowl Association has a booth at the Northwest Sportshow. We’re in booth 1305. Please feel free to swing by and say hello! It’s always fun to see familiar faces, put faces with names we know, or meet new people altogether.
Pretty light blog today, we know, but it means you can spend less time reading and more time outside, mocking winter as spring undoes its icy grip.