Protecting the Lessard-Sams bill

Published 10:00pm Sunday, December 4, 2011

It seems like I am playing this same broken record just about every year since the Lessard-Sams bill was passed.

A little over a week ago I had a chance to sit down and talk with Garry Leaf and Kevin Auslund of Sportsmen for Change. They were in town to meet with some area sportsmen and to discuss the latest efforts of our illustrious politicians to gain control of the Lessard-Sams council and other bills that are critical to preserving our outdoors heritage, the arts, watershed and parks and trails. They are traveling around the state speaking to sportsmen’s groups just like this one who are your friends, neighbors and folks who enjoy the outdoors, fishing and hunting like most of us do.

I don’t know what you readers think about legislators controlling your hunting and fishing but if they handle this as well as they have the state budget our outdoors will be in big trouble. It seems like most politicians have their own agenda these days and working together for the good of the majority doesn’t seem to be a priority.

The following is the message that Leaf and Auslund want to convey to Minnesota sportsmen in order to make them aware of what is going on in the State Legislature regarding our amendment:

Local hunters and anglers have increasingly become aware that they have to know where legislators stand on outdoor issues important to sportsmen. Unless we are vigilant and speak up we will continue to see bills introduced by legislators that will negatively affect sportsmen. Indeed, during the legislative session of 2011, three bills were introduced with multiple authors that strike at the very heart of habitat funding efforts that hunters and anglers have worked for over the past decade. The bills include:

Bill House File No. 0332: No-Net Gain of Public Lands. 17 authors have signed onto the bill.

No additional land could be purchased by the state open to public hunting unless an equal number of public acres are first sold elsewhere.

Bill House File No. 1073: Elimination of Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council. The current 12-member council made up of eight citizens and four legislators would be abolished and replaced with a council of legislators only. Nine authors have signed onto the bill.

Bill House File No. 1723: Repeal of the Legacy Amendment. The constitutional amendment, passed in 2008 by nearly 60 percent of voters, would once again be put on the ballot in 2012 for possible defeat. Five authors have signed onto the bill.

“Sportsmen have to by necessity become more involved in politics or suffer the consequences of the legislative pen over hunting and fishing issues. Just a few strokes of this pen can undo the past 10 years of hard work for habitat funding. Of foremost priority is for the State Legislature to pass the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council’s recommendations for spending of constitutional Legacy money on habitat projects. This council that includes a majority of citizens keeps politics out of outdoor issues and selects the best projects for fish, game and wildlife,” said Garry Leaf, executive director of Sportsmen for Change. Legislators will often object to land purchases that result in state ownership open to public hunting because such land would be taken off the tax roles. However, these same legislators often fail to mention that payment is still made to the counties through payments of PILT (Payments In Lieu of Taxes) by the state to the counties. Indeed, the State Legislative Auditor’s Summary Report of 2010 found that “results suggest that the PILT counties receive for most acquired land is generally greater than the property taxes they receive on comparable private land.”

It is clear by the three introduced bills above that some anti-sportsmen legislators will, if they can, stack the cards against hunters and anglers. Only by speaking up at the local level can hunters and anglers put legislators on notice their actions are being watched and will ultimately be held accountable on election day.

The purpose of the grassroots meetings set up by Leaf and Auslund is to make people aware of what certain politicians are doing to overturn the amendment that we, as voters, voted on and passed. We need to let to let the politicians know that the average guy can make a difference. Contact your local legislator and let he or she know how you feel.

I did contact my local representative, Rich Murray, and he responded to my email to give me an update on those three bills.

If you want to voice your opinion to your representative for District 27A you can contact Rich Murray at: 439 State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Saint Paul, MN 55155; or at 651-296-8216 or 877-377-9441 or rep.rich.murray@house.mn.

There are still some perch being caught in the open water of the channel by Frank Hall Park and Front Street. Minnows are the best bet for the bigger ones. With the temperatures still flirting with the 30s there should be open water for a while longer so you might want to take advantage of it if you don’t mind a little cold.

Until next time, play safe and enjoy the outdoors experience and be sure to make your voice heard.

Please remember to keep our troops in your thoughts and prayers during the coming year. They are the reason we are able to enjoy all the freedoms that we have today.