A yearly report detailing how much money the Department of Natural Resources spends managing fisheries in Lake Mille Lacs is the goal of a bill heard by the House Mining and Outdoor Recreation Policy Committee Tuesday.
HF382, which was laid over for possible inclusion in an omnibus bill and has no Senate companion, would direct the DNR to outline fisheries management costs related to the 1837 treaty giving the United States territory that had belonged to the Chippewa nation. In exchange, the Chippewa kept certain hunting and fishing privileges. These have been the cause of some controversy during the years, including a court case that culminated in a 1999 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in favor of the Chippewa.
Rep. Sondra Erickson (R-Princeton), who sponsors HF382 and represents a portion of Lake Mille Lacs, told members she is asked frequently by her constituents about the cost of managing the lake’s fisheries, but the last time the DNR had reported these costs to her was 10 years ago and the amount was over $1 million.
“This is a bill about transparency and accountability,” Erickson said.
With the challenges brought by the decline in walleye population on Lake Mille Lacs and the ongoing regulatory response to those issues, Erickson said her bill would “preserve the integrity” all state agencies should have. She also offered an amendment, which was adopted, that would make the report available on the DNR’s website.
Rep. Tom Anzelc (DFL-Balsam Township) asked Erickson why a law was needed.
“Can’t we just get this information without having to pass a law,” he said. “It seems like the DNR should be forthcoming and should be very willing to provide information.”
Erickson said she preferred not to legislate the issue and hoped the bill would begin a discussion that propelled the DNR to begin producing the report.
Don Pereira, DNR fisheries chief, told the committee it shouldn’t be difficult for the agency to provide the data but that there would be a fiscal impact and the DNR “will probably have to proceed to do a fiscal note if this bill passes and we’re required to make this report.”