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House passes LCCMR funding bill

More than $46 million would be available to fund projects meant to protect, conserve, preserve and enhance the state’s natural resources after the House passed HF390*/SF698 by a vote of 100-30 Saturday afternoon.

The bill would appropriate money based on recommendations made by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources for expenditures from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund. The fund was established through a constitutional amendment approved by voters in 1988 to direct proceeds from the state lottery and investment income to benefit natural resources.

As debate on the bill began, Rep. Paul Torkelson (R-Hanska) successfully offered an amendment to substitute the House version of the bill, HF390. It appropriates the same total sum, $46.38 million, but would distribute those funds in slightly different manner.

The bill now travels back to the Senate for concurrence. Sen. Kari Dziedzic (DFL-Mpls) is the Senate sponsor.

One of the most significant funding differences involves energy. SF698 would appropriate $1 million to the Legislative Energy Commission to research and analyze Minnesota’s energy systems and develop strategies that maximize energy efficiency and the use of clean energy.

The House bill does not include that appropriation. Instead, it would appropriate $2 million for the Board of Water and Soil Resources for grants that secure enrollment of private lands in conservation programs – $1 million more than the Senate would appropriate.

HF390 also differs from the Senate bill in that it does not include all of the recommendations made by the LCCMR. Two proposed projects that had been recommended by the commission were removed during the committee process. One was the LEC study and the other a habitat study of turtle populations in urban lakes.

“The Senate neglected to make any improvements but we did,” Torkelson said. “(HF390) reflects the improvements that were made by the House committee.”

An amendment successfully offered by Rep. Jennifer Schultz (DFL-Duluth), and subsequently amended by Rep. Rick Hansen (DFL-South St. Paul), added language requiring land acquired, restored or enhanced with the money appropriated not be planted, or otherwise treated, with a product that contains pollinator lethal insecticide.

“We need this for our bees,” Schultz said.

Some of the largest appropriations in HF390*/SF698 include:

  • $14.19 million to acquire land for habitat and recreation – more than half of this money would go to the Department of Natural Resources to buy land throughout the state that to help preserve high-quality native plant communities or native prairies, among other things;
  • $12.93 million to collect data and information about the state’s natural resources – some of the money would be used to fund the production of county geologic atlases that define aquifer boundaries and how they connect to surface waters. Other funding would go to the continuation of a biological survey meant to provide the foundational information needed to conserve biological diversity;
  • $6.07 million to fight aquatic and terrestrial invasive species – most of this money ($5 million) would go to the University of Minnesota’s Invasive Terrestrial Plants and Pests Center to research methods to prevent or minimize these threats to the state’s resources;
  • $5.65 million to protect, restore and enhance state land, water and habitat – this money would be distributed among a number of projects including the BWSR grants for private lands in conservation program, a pilot program to improve local forests in communities around the state and money for other local projects; and
  • $2.27 million to improve air quality, slow climate change and spur renewable energy production – the University of Minnesota would receive $1 million for the Morris West Central Research and Outreach Center and Twin Cities campus to develop new technologies to produce ammonia for fertilizer in a renewable and sustainable manner.

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