I want to wish everyone an enjoyable Thanksgiving full of good food and the good company of loved ones. Let’s take a moment to be thankful for everything that makes the Iron Range special, including our natural resources, our grit and perseverance, and friendly faces in our strong, tight-knit communities.
While many of us will enjoy an abundance of food, fun, and fellowship over the holiday, many folks struggle this time of year. Please consider making a donation to an organization that helps out those in our region who might be having a tough time – perhaps the Arrowhead Equal Opportunity Agency’s food shelves or the United Way of Northeastern Minnesota.
If you plan on doing any shopping this weekend, please consider purchasing gifts from our locally-owned businesses.
148th Fighter Wing
Last week, I had the honor to join my colleagues on the House Veterans & Military Affairs Committee to visit the Minnesota Air National Guard's 148th Fighter Wing in Duluth to hear about some of their critical infrastructure needs, including hangars that are dilapidated and overdue for replacement. Members of the 148th come from all over northern Minnesota, including Col. Nathan Aysta whose roots are on the Iron Range.
The Bulldogs have been in action since 1948 and currently have a fleet of 22 F-16 Block 50 Vipers. The citizen airmen and women are simply amazing, and we can't thank them enough for their commitment to keeping us safe at home and abroad. The 148th is important to our region’s economy too, generating $90.9 million worth of activity annually. I'm proud to advocate for them down at the Capitol by carrying the legislation to fund their capital investment request. It's an honor to serve on the Veterans Committee and I thank Chair Jerry Newton, himself a retired sergeant major in the U.S. Army, for organizing the visit.
Wolf Management Hunt
Deer Hunting Season is the best time of year here in Northern Minnesota. Families get together at their hunting shacks, parents pass down their traditions to their kids, and new connections are formed throughout town when folks bump into each other to talk about the hunt. I cherish these traditions with my family every year.
Unfortunately, we’re seeing another year of decreasing registration. In fact, the DNR reports that we saw another 17% reduction in Northern Minnesota in 2023 after an already low 2022 season. The truth is these declines are happening for a reason and it is because there are fewer and fewer deer to harvest due to the out-of-control gray wolf population. Not only that, but the wolves are wreaking havoc on our communities by attacking family dogs and livestock. You need not look far to hear yet again about another recent wolf attack.
In 2019, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found that gray wolves no longer met the definition of an endangered or threatened species. Given that decision, I introduced a bill in 2022 to allow a regulated, managed wolf hunt in Minnesota. Unfortunately, shortly thereafter, a federal judge from California reversed the 2019 federal action, putting wolves back on the endangered species list and providing for a nearly blanket moratorium on hunting across the country. No federal judge from another state has any business making a decision like this impacting our way of life.
Given this artificial ban on hunting wolves from an out-of-touch federal judge, our local wildlife managers, communities, and hunters can only throw up their hands when predators like these grow beyond their natural numbers. Anyone can plainly see that the Gray Wolf is far from endangered and is instead thriving far beyond their means.
Many of you may be asking, given the federal ban on hunting Gray Wolves, what can we do as a community to tackle this issue?
First, we must advocate to our Federal Delegation to delist the Gray Wolf from the Endangered Species Act. Luckily for us, this is a bipartisan issue with both our local Republican U.S. Congressman, Pete Stauber, and our neighboring Democratic U.S. Senator, Tammy Baldwin, having bills in Congress to do just that. We must have our voices heard at the federal level, which is why I will do my part as a State Representative to reach out to our federal delegation to continue to push them on this issue, and I hope you will join me because our voices are stronger as one.
Second, we should continue to push for a managed hunt here in Minnesota if and when the Gray Wolf is delisted at the Federal Level. I will continue to fight for this legislation and push back against a wolf hunting ban at the state level.
Lastly, we need to think proactively beyond just the Gray Wolf on how we can better foster the Whitetail Deer population in our region. I will advocate to the DNR to create a taskforce that truly represents hunters, wildlife managers, and other stakeholders who live in our communities in Northern Minnesota and are being impacted to evaluate and come up with recommendations on supporting a thriving deer population in our region.
In Northern Minnesota we cherish our outdoor heritage, and we must do everything we can to protect it because it is who we are. Join me in this effort because if we don’t, our traditions could vanish before our eyes.
Kudos to St. Louis County
Congratulations to St. Louis County for enacting one of the lowest property tax levy increases in the entire state. The Mesabi Tribune recently highlighted the work of the Board of Commissioners approving a levy increase of just 2.93 percent. Residents and business owners have been struggling with rapidly increasing property taxes, and as chair of the House Property Tax Committee, this session I worked with our counties and cities on solutions to help Minnesotans afford to stay in their homes. Through new investments by the Legislature – resulting from bills I championed – in tools like County Program Aid and Payment in Lieu of Taxes, the county will be able to continue delivering key public services while relying minimally on property tax increases.
Please continue to be in touch. It’s an honor to represent you. Again, Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.