Last week's Easter break in the Legislature provided a chance to spend time discussing issues with area people and groups. It was productive and I appreciate the feedback.
During the break we had an informational meeting at the library in Aitkin about the wolf situation in our area. Around 45 people attended, we had state and federal officials on hand to provide information and answer questions on what we can and cannot due since the wolves were placed back under federal protection.
The federal court in the District of Columbia, Washington D.C., placed wolves back on the federal endangered species list, tying the state's and individual citizens' hands with respect to taking any action that would harm a wolf. To do so today is a serious federal felony.
What we are doing at the state level is making sure we support the USDA/Wildlife Services Animal Control Officers (federal wolf trappers) ability to investigate and trap wolves that kill or injure livestock. The federal wolf trappers are now authorized and currently funded to respond, the phone number of their office is (218) 327-3350. If you encounter a wolf problem, protect the evidence of the attack from disturbance and immediately make a report to a DNR Conservation Officer and also report the incident to the USDA Wildlife Services office. From there they will be able to assist you in dealing with the wolf issue and filing a damage claim if livestock were injured or killed.
We are also making sure that we program enough state funds to cover the backlog of wolf damage claims on hand and meet future needs. To permanently move wolf management back under state control it will take our federal congressmen and senators from Minnesota passing federal legislation that permanently remove wolves from federal protection under the endangered species act. I continue to contact our federal legislators on this issue and encourage you to do the same.
Above, Future Farmers of America chapters and, below, area Farm Bureau members from the area meet with myself and fellow Rep. Josh Heintzeman at the Capitol this week.
Local Future Farmers of America chapters (FFA) and Farm Bureau members traveled down to the Capitol this week to talk about ag. issues and get an up-close look at the legislative process. It was an honor to spend time with the group. In addition to meeting with various legislators, they also attended committee meetings, including the Ag. Finance Committee. Two of our FFA members from Aitkin, Shianne Teas and Andrea Hanson had the opportunity to testify during an Ag Finance Committee hearing. They talked about their organization and shared what they were learning about state government during their visit. The group also observed a floor session of the MN House of Representatives.
Gov. Mark Dayton provided his "State of the State" address last night. There was nothing new about his insistence on raising the gas tax, his demand for the controversial 50-foot buffer strips as a silver bullet to solve the state's water pollution issues or spending most of the current surplus on new education programs. However, I was surprised and disappointed that there was no specific mention of improving what we do at our nursing homes, assisted living facilities, in-home elder or disabled care services, or the fixing many issues we continue to have with the MNSure insurance program.
We in St. Paul will continue to work with the governor on the challenges we face. I remain confident we will come together by the end of session on a rational approach to meeting the needs of our citizens in the district.
Please stay in touch and I'll keep you apprised as to what we are doing in St. Paul.