~ Recommendations for 2008 session also include dedicated funding, Conservation Compact ~
Saying that Minnesota must do a better job governing and funding the protection and enhancement of its natural resources, the Governor’s Conservation Legacy Council (CLC) presented its report to Governor Tim Pawlenty today.
The CLC report recommends a new conservation model that focuses on three strategic elements:
1) Dedicated conservation funding
2) Creation of a citizen-based Minnesota Conservation Commission
3) Establishment of a Minnesota Conservation Compact to establish measurable conservation goals and identify priorities statewide.
“Minnesota’s great outdoors – our beautiful lakes, streams, prairies and forests – help define who we are as a state. They’re part of the pride we all share as Minnesotans,” Governor Pawlenty said. “Taking care of our natural resources needs to rise above political considerations and two-year legislative cycles. The Conservation Legacy Council has done fantastic work presenting an innovative and citizen-based approach to enhancing conservation management. I am hopeful these bipartisan recommendations will be embraced by the legislature in the 2008 session.”
In August 2006, Governor Tim Pawlenty signed an executive order creating the 15 member Governor’s Conservation Legacy Council. At ten meetings between November and April, the CLC reviewed how natural resources are governed and assembled recommendations relating to fish, game and wildlife habitat protection and restoration, water quality protection and enhancement, forestry activities, prairie restoration, and biological diversity.
The CLC’s report states that, “despite the best efforts and good intentions of many talented and committed Minnesotans – including elected state leaders and professional resource administrators and field staff – we continue to lose ground. It may be a cliché to say, but the cliché is true: Government cannot address the challenges alone.”
The CLC’s recommendation for a better governance and funding model is built on three strategic elements:
1. Dedicated Conservation Funding. The Council recommends an immediate increase in funding for the conservation and management of Minnesota’s natural resources and calls for the legislature to approve a constitutional ballot question regarding the dedication of a portion of a state general tax for conservation. The Council also recommends dedicated funds be appropriated by the Legislature to the Conservation Commission to fund the priorities identified in the Conservation Compact, and that this funding should supplement, not supplant, existing conservation funding.
2. Minnesota Conservation Commission. The Council recommends that a citizen-based Conservation Commission of four to nine members be established to lead state conservation efforts. Among its recommended duties, the Commission would recommend to the Governor candidates to serve as commissioner of the DNR, oversee the development and implementation of Minnesota’s Conservation Compact, provide strategic direction and oversight to the DNR on policy and budget matters, identify needed state conservation policies and programs, and coordinate intergovernmental delivery of state conservation policies and practices. Members would be appointed by the Governor at large, with the advice and consent of the Senate, for four to six year terms.
3. Minnesota Conservation Compact. The Council recommends a Minnesota Conservation Compact as the focal point for identifying and funding needed conservation practices. The Compact would establish measurable conservation goals and identify statewide and regionally based conservation priorities and strategies required to address the most critical threats to the state’s natural resources. The Compact would emphasize partnerships between governmental and nongovernmental entities, landowners, and others to achieve specific improvements in the state’s water, fish, wildlife, forests, soil, and outdoor recreation resources.
In making its recommendations, the Council stressed the urgency in addressing the state’s conservation challenges. In the report to the Governor, Council Chair Mike Kilgore wrote that the CLC “also recognizes its pivotal opportunity to recommend a conservation model that will inspire greater stewardship of Minnesota’s natural resources. To that end, it considers the report’s recommendations to be bold, yet achievable actions toward making Minnesota the nation’s leading conservation state.”
The complete report to the Governor is available at http://files.dnr.state.mn.us/aboutdnr/reports/clc_report.pdf.
The CLC was comprised of 15 members; 11 public members and four legislators.
- Mike Kilgore, Chair of the Conservation Legacy Council, of Lino Lakes is an Associate Professor of Natural Resources Economic and Policy at the University of Minnesota and serves as the Director of the Center for Environment and Natural Resources Policy, Department of Forest Resources. Kilgore is the former Executive Director of the Minnesota Forest Resources Council, and an avid outdoorsman.
- LeAnn Buck of St Paul is the Executive Director of the Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts. Ms. Buck has served in that role since 1999. Local soil and water districts provide technical and financial resources to assist private landowners with the implementation of conservation practices. She has been active in a broad-based stakeholder group that successfully advanced clean water funding and policy implementation at the State Capitol. Ms. Buck is also active with the National Association of Conservation Districts to address provisions of the federal farm bill conservation programs and with the University of Minnesota Extension Service.
- Joe Duggan of Bloomington is Vice President, Corporate Relations and Marketing with Pheasants Forever. He has been named “Man of the Year” by Outdoor News and “Minnesota Conservationist of the Year by the Minnesota Conservation Federation. Mr. Duggan has served on a number of state and federal task forces and committees relating to wildlife conservation and natural resources. He was a member of the Upper Mississippi Great Lakes Joint Venture Board, founder of the Minnesota Outdoor Heritage Alliance, officer of the Executive Committee Environmental Trust Fund Coalition and Minnesota Public Lands Task Force. He also served on the Governor’s Trust Fund Citizen Selection Committee for the LLCM.
- Bruce Hawkinson of Welch is a conservation consultant for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and has worked extensively with other states, the Corps of Engineers, coastal programs and hunting and fishing groups to design, facilitate and develop strategies for enhancement of natural resources. He has been a fisheries researcher, area fisheries manager, lake management planner, and strategic and operational planner for fish and wildlife.
- Dawn Hegland of Appleton co-owns a family soybean farm in Lac qui Parle County with her husband, Ed Hegland. She is the Director of the Transportation, Recreation and Tourism Division for the Upper Minnesota Valley Regional Development Commission. Hegland also serves as the Minnesota River Valley Scenic Byway Coordinator and has extensive experience with recreation and tourism planning and funding. Ms. Hegland and her family enjoy camping, birding and biking.
- Jane Kingston of Eveleth is a self-employed consultant and a Trustee with the Nature Conservancy. She is a member of the Trout Lake Association of Itasca County, Ducks Unlimited, and the Ruffed Grouse Society. Ms. Kingston also served on the Governor’s Trust Fund Citizen Selection Committee for the LLCM.
- Carrie Mellesmoen of Minnetrista is a real estate attorney. Mellesmoen is also active with the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, Minnesota Outdoor Heritage Alliance, North American Bear Foundation, and the Minnesota Chapter, Safari Club International. Ms. Mellesmoen has been a hunter education instructor for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and served on the agency’s Game and Fish Fund citizen’s oversight committee.
- Kirk Schnitker of Champlin is an attorney. He worked on the ballot initiative for securing the right to hunt and fish in the Minnesota Constitution. He is a member of Minnesota Outdoor Heritage Alliance, Sportsmen for Change, and Pheasants Forever. Mr. Schnitker also served as Metropolitan Parks and Open Space Commissioner from 1992 – 1996, Champlin City Council from 1990-1996, and the Champlin Planning Commission from 1990-1992.
- Lawrence Sukalski of Fairmont is a family farmer and the recipient of the 2006 National Conservation Legacy Award from the American Soybean Association. Mr. Sukalski is the Secretary of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association and a member of the Minnesota and National Corn Growers Association. He is a member of the Natural Resource Conservation Service State Technical Committee and Martin County Conservation Club. Mr. Sukalski and his family practice 100 percent conservation and minimum tillage on their 2,400 acre family farm. He has enrolled 67 acres of his land in the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program and restored 24 acres of wetlands.
- Ron Schara of Ramsey is an outdoor writer and owner of a television production company. Schara’s Minnesota Bound TV show is in its 13th year and airs in the Twin Cities, Duluth, Rochester, and Fargo markets. He is also an award-winning outdoor columnist for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
- David Zentner of Duluth works in the insurance and financial services industry and has served as the Co-chair of the Environmental Natural Resource Trust Fund Task Force. Mr. Zentner served as Chapter, State and National President of the Izaak Walton League, receiving the organization’s Sigurd Olson Award. He was also named Conservationist of the Year by Outdoor Life Magazine.
The four legislative members of the CLC were Senator Tom Saxhaug (DFL-Grand Rapids), Senator Gen Olson (R-Minnetrista), Representative Aaron Peterson (DFL-Appleton) and Representative Tom Hackbarth (R-Cedar).