Millions of dollars in fisheries projects are in limbo after the Legacy bill went down in flames late Monday night when the House passed the measure too late to get the bill to the Senate for a vote.
At stake is more than $500 million in the state’s coming biennium, not only for fish, game and wildlife habitat, but for clean water, the arts and cultural heritage.
The money flows from a fractional increase in the state sales tax approved by voters as a constitutional amendment in 2008.
A chief hang-up that delayed the bill in a House-Senate conference committee was the removal in the House bill of money for a land purchase and habitat project on the White Earth Indian Reservation in northwest Minnesota.
The appropriation had been approved by the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council. But it was removed by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, a move opposed by DFLers in the House and Senate.
Conservation and wildlife groups had asked House Republicans to keep the White Earth project in the Legacy bill, as the Lessard-Sams Council recommended.
Importantly, money to fund Gov. Mark Dayton’s waterway buffer initiative also is tied up in the Legacy bill. Language beginning the program was approved in a different bill.
The Legislature is expected to reconsider the Legacy bill when it meets in special session at a future date. Doubtless, lobbying to get the bill passed will be intense until it is approved and sent to Dayton, because so much money and projects are at stake.
Here’s a snapshot of the fisheries projects in the Legacy bill:
• Department of Natural Resources (DNR) aquatic habitat project, phase VII: $4.5 million to buy land and permanent conservation easements for aquatic management and to restore and enhance aquatic habitat.
• $1.9 million to Trout Unlimited to restore and enhance habitat for trout and other species in and along cold water rivers and streams.
• $1.65 million to the DNR for an agreement with the city of Bemidji to restore and enhance fish habitat on Lake Bemidji.
• About $1 million for an agreement between the DNR and the Sand Hill River Watershed District to restore fish habitat.
Dennis Anderson • firstname.lastname@example.org