Tell Legislators to Stop Attacks on Clean Water and Minnesota Trout Streams

The MN Legislature is poised to remove the 50 foot buffers from trout streams in place since the 1980s.  They plan to roll back basic water protections, push an anti-public lands agenda and cut core funding from DNR and MPCA as well.  Legislators are claiming that they are not hearing from voters. We all need to speak up (again).  Please e mail or call this week.

Ask your legislators to:

  • Leave the buffer law alone – stop gutting the decades-old 50 foot buffers
  • Fund DNR fish & wildlife management, including with license fee increases
  • Remove the anti-public land provisions from the Legacy and tax bills

How to Reach Your Legislator in 1 Minute:

Legislators listen most to their voters, not organizations.  A short call or e mail by you can have a huge impact.  Quickly get links to your legislators’ e mail and phone numbers using this legislative link:  http://www.gis.leg.mn/iMaps/districts/   Type your address in the box and both your legislators will pop up, with links to their e mail forms.  Along with email information, their phone numbers are also provided and simple, short calls are very effective.

Background on issues:

Removal of 50 foot buffers from trout streams!

Minnesota has required 50 foot buffers on all trout streams, and other public waters, for more than 30 years.  In 2015 Governor Dayton pushed to extend buffers to drainage ditches and for better enforcement mechanisms.  Compliance with the buffer requirements is already 70% to 90% in a majority of counties.  In places like the Whitewater River watershed compliance with the 50 foot buffer requirement is more than 95%.  Ignoring this and any fairness to the vast majority of landowners, some legislators have inserted a provision in HF 888 (the Omnibus Environment bill) that removes the longstanding 50 foot buffer requirement from virtually every trout stream, replacing it with less effective 16.5 foot buffers.  By eliminating 50 foot buffers from those public waters without a shoreland classification (found only in zoned areas) the bill removes these buffers from all but a handful of trout streams, and 70% of all other streams and rivers statewide.  Tell your legislators to stop this attack on clean water and public fisheries for the convenience of a tiny minority.  Urge they remove Article 2, Sections 77 to 81 of HF 888.

Cuts to DNR’s budget and failure to include license fee increases

Fish and wildlife management activities by DNR are paid for by license buyers, not with general tax revenues.  The state fund used to deposit license fees and pay for fish and wildlife management (Game & Fish Fund) is projected to go into the red by 2019.  State law prohibits this, so fisheries programs must be cut unless revenue is increased.  Due to the complexities of the state’s 2 year budgeting cycle and 8 month lag in any license fee increase, the Legislature must act this spring or fisheries management activities will be cut beginning this summer.

The citizens’ budgetary oversight committee asked DNR to develop the fee increase proposal.  It would increase an annual fishing license by $3, from $22 to $25 and increase a deer hunting license from $30 to $34.  These increases are needed just to keep fisheries programs funded at current levels.  Amazingly the Legislature has not only ignored this need, but proposes $5 Million per year less for Fish & Wildlife Division activities than the Governor and DNR recommend!  This one-two punch will dramatically impact our fishing quality as soon as this July 1.  Recent comments by one House leader suggest that the majority party may withhold funding and fee increases – effectively holding anglers hostage – until it exacts some policy concessions from the Governor and DNR.  HF 888 is loaded with bad environmental policy that should not become law.  Tell your legislators to stop holding anglers and hunters hostage – restore the Fish & Wildlife Division’s base funding and include the proposed license fee increases.  More info is provided in MNTU’s March 15 blog post.

Anti-public land provisions in House Legacy

The House version of the Legacy bill (HF 707) contains provisions aimed at hindering conservation and thwarting the will of voters who overwhelming passed a constitutional amendment dedicating a new tax to fund conservation work.  One bill provision lets counties block the use Legacy funds for land/water protection by proclaiming “no net gain of public land” policies in counties.  This will block acquisitions of high value conservation lands with Outdoor Heritage Fund money unless the state sells other state land in that county.  Several bogus justifications have been offered, but the real motivation seems to be an anti-public lands, anti-government philosophy similar to what is being seen out West.  It ignores the fact that more than a third of the “state owned lands” it demonizes are actually administered by counties and can be sold by the counties whenever they choose, including to prevent any net gain.  There are other serious problems with the House bill, which are well explained in Dennis Anderson’s April 6 article in the Star Tribune.  Read the article by clicking this link:  http://www.startribune.com/house-passed-legacy-bill-deserves-a-governor-s-veto-if-not-modified-a-lot/418581703/

Anti-public land provisions in House Tax bill

The House also inserted in its tax bill (HF 4) what many are referring to as the “trust fund Ponzi scheme” provision.  It requires that for every acquisition made using Outdoor Heritage Funds, an additional 30% (rough average) of the purchase price be set aside in a sub-fund to be used not to protect, restore or enhance habitat, forests, prairies, etc., but rather to pay property taxes to counties forever. It also contains a “poison pill” provision which provides that if (when) this “trust fund Ponzi scheme” provision is declared unconstitutional, OHF funds can no longer be used for acquisitions.  Please let your legislators know you object to their ignoring the constitution and will of the voters.

Send a message to the Environment Chairs too:

The Chairs of the House and Senate Environment committees are supposed to represent all Minnesotans, not just their districts.  To let them know of your concerns contact:

Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen (R- Alexandria), Chair, Senate Environment & Nat. Resources Finance

sen.bill.ingebrigtsen@senate.mn

(651) 297-8063

 

Representative Dan Fabian (R-Roseau), Chair, Environment & Nat. Res. Policy & Finance

rep.dan.fabian@house.mn

651-296-9635

 

Make noise soon:

None of the bills are in final form and on the way to the Governor.  There is time for one or both bodies to fix the problems.  Many legislators claim that they are hearing no objections from their voters.  Now is the time to make a little noise and tell them that we do not want these misguided roll backs of our basic water protections, agency authority and spending on the environment.

Water Action Day is April 19 in St. Paul – join MNTU there:

Minnesota TU is partnering on this day of concentrated lobbying at the state capitol for clean water.  MNTU’s executive director will be available to help you bend your legislators’ ears.  Buses to the capitol are originating from 6 outstate areas: Austin; Houston – Winona; Marshall; Park Rapids; Bemidji; and Duluth.

To register and find details visit: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/minnesota-water-action-day-registration-31483505011

Also, let MNTU’s John Lenczewski know if you will attend by emailing him at: jlenczewski@comcast.net