Playing politics with our outdoor tax dollars

Published 8:43 am Friday, February 12, 2010

In November of 2008 we, the citizens of this great state voted on a bill that was called the Lessard-Sams bill, which was to enhance our Minnesota Heritage by improving the habitat for game, fish and wildlife and also help clean up our water, enhance our parks and the arts. This was a long time coming for former Senator Bob Lessard who had championed this cause for many years.

There is a move on in the State Legislature to divert part of the 33 percent funding for game, fish and wildlife projects to other interests. This move was started in the 11th hour of the last legislative session by Mary Murphy, DFL-Hermantown and Jean Wagenius, DFL-Minneapolis and was also supported by Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis. There was also an attempt to change the name of the bill, which just shows that there are almost no boundaries when it comes to politics.

This is an attempt to divert funding for metro area and non-game, fish and wildlife “pet” projects. As outdoorsmen and taxpayers we need to have the original wording in place and make sure that the funding goes to the “exact” programs that we the public understood that it would.

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The message seemed clear when we, the taxpayers, voted on the amendment. The following is a quote from a column that I wrote for the Oct. 17, 2008 edition of the Albert Lea Tribune, “The money dedicated under the constitutional amendment will be appropriated by law. The dedicated money must supplement traditional funding sources for these purposes and could not be used as a substitute.”

In the Dec. 26, 2008 Tribune I also had the following two paragraphs:

“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 had a chance to meet last week with Garry Leaf and some area outdoorsmen concerned about this attempt to divert funds from the 33 percent the sportsmen are to receive from the funding. Garry is the executive director of the organization Sportsmen for Change and was an important part of getting this amendment passed. He said that it was a good thing that the Heritage Council was in place from the start and that they are going to follow the original language that we voted on.

The following is a letter I received from Garry Leaf:

Time to Defend the Outdoor Amendment Money

When the people of Minnesota passed the Outdoor Legacy amendment by 56 percent of the vote, the largest conservation ballot measure in U.S. history, many thought the issue was over. They are wrong, here’s why.

The Minnesota House of Representatives is attempting to redefine what some of the constituently language actually means. No such effort is in the Minnesota Senate.

Moreover, the House effort is aimed at the sportsmen’s fund 33 percent for their own pet projects (parks, etc.) instead of the fish, game and wildlife projects that hunters and anglers care about. The constitutional language reads as follows:

1. Thirty-three percent of the receipts shall be deposited in the outdoor heritage fund and may be spent only to restore, protect, and enhance wetlands, prairies, forests, and habitat for fish, game, and wildlife;

2. “Land acquired by fee with money deposited in the outdoor heritage fund under this section (must be open to the public taking of fish and game) during the open season unless otherwise provided by law.”

A larger issue is many believed the amendment money would be permanently safe, secure and protected because it’s in the state constitution.

In 1998, 77 percent of the voters passed the constitutional right to protect hunting, fishing and trapping. Yet yearly there are anti-hunting bills. In the same way we have second amendment rights yet every year there are efforts to undermine firearm ownership.

The Lessard-Sams council is one of the safeguards we built in to protect the money. They are investing in great projects for hunters and anglers. But our job as license holders is to hold politicians accountable.

From time to time the hunters and anglers will have to rise up to oppose efforts to raid the fund. This is one of those times.

The Outdoor Funds $70-100 million per year is more money that all of fishing and hunting license sales, stamps, and private donations combined. And is worth a few minutes of our time to defend.

All House Representative members need to hear the following:

— Put Fish, Game and Wildlife Habitat definitions and support the Lessard-Sams Council definitions of “enhance, protect and restore”.

— Every land purchase must be open to hunting and fishing.

It is important the House reinstates the definitions established by the Lessard-Sams Council for “enhance, protect and restore” and drops the ecology wording that is a catch-all for urban projects, parks, education and non-sportsmen funding.

Contacting your legislator is as simple as going to and clicking the link Petition Your Legislator.

For those in our area that don‘t have access to a computer you can contact your District Representative:

District 27A

The Honorable Robin Brown

27667 Mower Freeborn Rd

Austin, MN 55912-5796


District 24B

The Honorable Tony Cornish

P.O. Box 128

Good Thunder, MN 56037


It only takes a couple of minutes so take the time to go online and sign the petition, as an outdoorsman and a taxpayer I couldn’t wait to sign it. If nothing else you are telling them to quit playing politics with my money.

Until next time, use caution on the ice and always take a little time to enjoy our great Minnesota outdoors.

Remember to keep our troops in your thoughts and prayers throughout the year.