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House panel OKs $71 million in conservation trust-funded projects

An annual proposal dedicating money from a Minnesota State Lottery-backed trust fund to conservation and research projects recommended by a citizen-legislator commission has taken its first step.

On Tuesday, the House Environment and Natural Resources Finance and Policy Committee approved HF151, which would provide $70.8 million from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund to 88 projects. Its next stop is the House Ways and Means Committee.

House environment panel approves HF151 02/02/21

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Rick Hansen (DFL-South St. Paul), doesn't have a Senate companion.

Funding for the projects was recommended in November by the 17-member Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources, which includes 10 legislators.

Each year, the commission solicits requests for trust fund dollars — which come from lottery ticket and scratch game proceeds — from conservation and environmental research projects around the state.

Last year's trust fund bill stalled when the Republican-controlled Senate tied its passage to delaying implementation of proposed clean car standards, though the environment committee revived the bill in January.

Democrats have also objected in recent years to Republican requests to use the fund for wastewater infrastructure projects.

The 88 projects recommended this year include everything from preserving a cactus species native to Minnesota to studying antibiotic resistance and wastewater treatment. The median appropriation would be $424,000, with the largest at $4.3 million and smallest at $2,000.

The LCCMR is accepting proposals for 2022 projects through April 2.

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