Looking forward to 2009

Published 10:09 am Friday, December 26, 2008

Another year is almost history and it seems like I just finished taking down the decorations from the last Christmas.

I do think we’ve have enough snow and while I have always thought of myself as being kind of creative I am having a hard time creating places to pile the stuff. I hope my trusty old “scoop” can make it through the winter because it’s getting pretty beat up, kind of like the operator.

This past year brought about some changes, locally we have a new mayor, congratulations Mike, we also voted in the country’s first black president, and in our own bid to outdo Florida’s election process we have a seemingly never-ending senate race.

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On the environmental side we passed the dedicated funding bill which if used correctly will be a big asset to our lakes and habitat, as well as the arts.

Outdoor News magazine had an article that concerns me a little. The newly formed Outdoor Heritage Fund will be exactly that — funding for maintaining and improving habitat. The Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources, according to the article, currently recommends about $25 million a year from the Natural Resources Fund go to habitat. In a meeting where habitat funding was discussed Sen. Ellen Anderson of St. Paul was quoted as saying, “I do think, ultimately, the LCCMR needs to kind of phase itself out of the business of funding these habitat projects, assuming the Heritage Council will fund them.”

This is a scary thought because the tax bill that we voted on and passed was to help “improve” funding for various habitat projects, not to replace the existing funding. I hope that there will be enough levelheaded leadership on these committees to make sure we surge ahead and not move laterally. It seems that whenever legislators get involved in funding things seem to get a little more complicated than sometimes deemed necessary.

I don’t think that there is anything more peaceful than spending time outdoors enjoying a Minnesota winter. There is just something peaceful about being in the woods or on a trail watching the wildlife and looking for signs of critters in the snow.

If you are looking for a good winter activity and would like to get some good exercise at the same time you may want to give cross country skiing a try. My cousin, Tom, who is older than I am and lives in Washington state still enjoys that sport. I have never been good on a pair of skis so I haven’t experienced it but from the people I talk to it’s a great sport for the whole family to enjoy.

Of course, like almost anything else these days it doesn’t come without a price and the following news release from the DNR is a reminder of that.

Cross-country skiers must have a pass

State law requires cross country skiers to purchase either a daily, annual or three-year pass before using any grant-in-aid and state-operated trail this winter. All money raised from the sale of the ski passes directly supports 1,800 miles of designated cross country ski trails throughout Minnesota, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

“Skiers should think of the passes as an investment in their sport,” said Andrew Korsberg, trail program coordinator for the DNR. “The money collected is funneled directly into the grant-in-aid program to support and expand the trail system statewide and to maintain it at the level skiers have come to expect.”

Daily ski passes cost $5, $15 for annual passes, and $40 for the three-year pass.

The ski pass was established in 1983. The law requires skiers 16 years of age and older to have a valid Minnesota ski trail pass with them at all times while on a designated trail. Skiers found without a pass may be ticketed.

Skiers may purchase passes at any one of nearly 1,800 electronic licensing agents throughout Minnesota and at most state parks that have ski trails.

Annual and three-year passes may also be purchased at https://www3.wildlifelicense.com/mn/. People may also purchase a ski pass by calling 1-888-665-4236, or by mail at DNR License Center, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, MN 55155-4026. Passes ordered by mail require approximately two weeks for delivery.

A $3.50 convenience fee will be added to the sale of passes sold over the Internet or by phone. More Minnesota cross country ski trail information, including trail locations, maps and conditions, is available at http://www.mndnr.gov/skiing/index.html.

In the scheme of things this sounds like a small price to pay for enjoying another great Minnesota pastime.

Until next time here’s wishing you a very safe and happy New Year!

Remember to keep our troops in your thoughts and prayers during this holiday season.