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Lessard council funding bill

Published (4/10/2009)
By Nick Busse
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The first package of funding recommendations from the Lessard Outdoor Heritage Council won the approval of a House division April 7.

Rep. Rick Hansen (DFL-South St. Paul) sponsors HF2131, which proposes to spend $69.5 million in the next fiscal year on mostly environmental projects. The bill comprises the recommendations of the council, which was established to spend money from the three-eighths of 1 percent sales tax increase that was approved as an amendment to the state constitution by voters on last year’s ballot.

The following is a rough breakdown of funding proposed by the bill:

• $20.8 million for wetland acquisition and restoration projects;

• $20 million for the acquisition of forest land and easements;

• $14.2 million for prairie restoration projects, consisting mostly of land acquisitions;

• $13.9 million for fish and wildlife habitat projects; and

• $870,000 for administrative costs.

Funding for the projects would flow through the Department of Natural Resources, which would work in conjunction with local governments and state and national nonprofit groups.

The House State Government Finance Division approved the bill and referred it to the House Finance Committee. Sen. Tom Saxhaug (DFL-Grand Rapids) sponsors the companion, SF1927, which awaits action by the Senate Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Budget Division.

Some division members raised questions about a provision that would fund a $4 million competitive grant program under the supervision of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Chairwoman Rep. Phyllis Kahn (DFL-Mpls) said she didn’t like the idea of having a private organization administer a state-funded program. She successfully amended the bill so that the money would go to the DNR instead.

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