Protecting MN Natural Resources

State Sen. Chuck Wiger
District 55

As Minnesotans set out to fish, camp, hike, bird watch and play in the lakes, it is clear that we love the great outdoors. We take pride in our more than 10,000 lakes, great plains and forests, and we aim to protect them. From local gems like Silver Lake and Battle Creek Park to regional assets like the Mississippi River and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, there is plenty for all to enjoy. As Sara Moss-Wolfe said, "Nature is my medicine."

In the 2008 election, Minnesotans overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment that dedicated funding to the outdoors and the arts. During the 2009 Legislative Session, it was the Legislature's job to decide where the newly dedicated funding should be spent. With help and guidance from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, outdoors and arts activist groups and organizations, and concerned citizens, the Legislature outlined a plan to protect and preserve our state's natural resources and sustain the arts.

The following is the breakdown of the funding:

• $151 million will go in to the Clean Water Fund to be used for

shoreline protection and restoration, research and tool development to protect lakes and rivers, agricultural practice research, evaluations and effectiveness, and education and public engagement efforts.

• $87.5 million will be appropriated to the Outdoor Heritage Fund. This will be used to protect prairies, forests, wetlands and fish, game and wildlife habitat.

• The Parks and Trails Fund will receive $65 million for numerous parks and trails priorities and needs that will include improved visitor services, enhanced natural resource protection and facility maintenance, and innovative ways of connecting Minnesotans to the outdoors through conservation education and interpretive programming.

The Legacy Amendment also included dedicated funding to the arts. The legislation includes $95 million to be appropriated to the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund for the Minnesota Arts Board, Minnesota Historical Society, Minnesota Humanities Center, Perpich Center for Arts Education, Minnesota Science Museum and Minnesota zoos.

Legislation passed this year also includes funding to develop a comprehensive Web site about the Legacy Amendment. In the meantime, some information can be obtained from the Department of Natural Resources, www.dnr.state.mn.us/eco/cwl/index.html, or the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council, www.lohc.state.mn.us.

The long-term nature of Legacy funding opens a door for some local environmental projects, including expansion of parks and trails and protection of area lakes and creeks. This session I introduced legislation for projects on or around area lakes and creeks, including Fish Creek and Silver, Kohlman and Keller Lakes. While these projects were not funded this session, I believe that with Legacy funding available there is a better chance of getting some projects approved.

Our environment needs to be protected, and through these efforts, our natural resources will continue to thrive. President Theodore Roosevelt once said, "The conservation of natural resources is the fundamental problem. Unless we solve that problem it will avail us little to solve all others."

Take time this summer to appreciate what Minnesota has to offer and have fun in the great outdoors!

Thank you to the many people who contacted me about funding for the arts and outdoors. As always, please contact me with questions or suggestions about any issue. You can reach me at 296-6820 (Capitol) or 770-0283 (home), send e-mail to sen.chuck.wiger@senate.mn, or write to 323 State Capitol, St. Paul, MN 55155. Please visit my Senate Web site at senate.mn/senatorwiger. I also encourage you to visit me at the Capitol, or let me know if you'd like me to stop by your home or apartment. Also, please tune in to my local cable TV show, "Your Capitol: What's Up?," which appears on public access channels 15 and 16.

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