Conservation of Minnesota’s irreplaceable lands and waters would not be possible without supportive public policy and funding.
To make the most effective and efficient use of its resources, The Nature Conservancy focuses on those legislative issues with the highest impact on and/or benefit to land and water conservation. Following is a list of our top legislative priorities in Minnesota in 2014.
Outdoor Heritage Fund
The Outdoor Heritage Fund is one of four funds created by the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment. The amendment, which citizens passed in November 2008, increased Minnesota’s sales tax by three-eighths of one percent for the next 25 years. Thirty-three percent of that tax increase is dedicated to the Outdoor Heritage Fund to restore, protect and enhance wetlands, prairies, forests and habitat for fish, game and wildlife.
The Nature Conservancy played a lead role in securing passage of the amendment, and we continue to work with the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council and other conservation partners to ensure these taxpayer dollars are invested wisely in conserving Minnesota’s natural resources.
Since the Fund’s inception in 2009, we have successfully proposed and supported the Council’s funding recommendations to the Minnesota Legislature. This year, the Council's recommendations include three Conservancy projects:
• Northern Tallgrass Prairie National Wildlife Refuge—to acquire land or permanent easements to add to the wildlife refuge in western Minnesota; and
• Minnesota Prairie Recovery Project—to acquire interests in land and restore and enhance prairie and prairie/wetland habitat in the prairie regions of western and southwestern Minnesota; and
• Southeast Minnesota Protection and Restoration—to acquire land for state wildlife management areas, state natural areas or state forest, to acquire permanent easements and to restore and enhance habitat on permanently-protected lands.
State Bonding for Conservation
One of the ways the state pays for projects is to borrow money by issuing bonds. The Conservancy supports bonding for the following conservation projects:
Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund
In 1988, Minnesota voters approved a constitutional amendment establishing the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund. The Conservancy supports the recommendations of the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources. This year, the Commission’s recommendations includes the Conservancy’s Southeast Minnesota Watershed Protection Plan.
State Operating Budget
The Conservancy has two priorities related to the state’s operating budget:
• Work with legislators to protect state general funds for habitat conservation; and
• Help ensure that conservation funding in the Department of Natural Resources for the Ecological and Water Resources Division is maintained. The Division’s work includes invasive species management, wetland and stream protection, research, the Minnesota County Biological Survey and many other responsibilities critical to land and water conservation.
Land and Water Conservation Fund
At the federal level, Conservancy staff in Minnesota and across the country are working to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). LWCF is funded by federal offshore oil and gas lease revenues, and it ensures that America’s most important natural areas remain undeveloped and open for outdoor recreation. It also protects working forests that provide forest products and much-needed forest industry jobs.
If you’d like to help The Nature Conservancy protect funding for vital conservation programs like the Land and Water Conservation Fund, sign up to Use Your Outside Voice today.
Questions regarding Minnesota’s legislative priorities should be directed to Isis Stark. She can be reached via e-mail or at (612) 331-0791.