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Bills address DNR land management

Published (2/18/2011)
By Sue Hegarty
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Two House members have similar goals but differing methods for managing the state’s natural resources through a pair of bills heard by the House Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Policy and Finance Committee Feb. 15 and 17.

Rep. Steve Drazkowski (R-Mazeppa) sponsors HF332, which would prohibit the state from acquiring additional land unless an equal amount is sold off.

Sponsored by Rep. Tony Cornish (R-Good Thunder), HF498 goes a step further and would prohibit any net loss of hunting land within the Department of Natural Resources. Neither bill has a Senate companion.

Both bills were introduced on the heels of a December 2010 DNR report, “Long-Range Budget Analysis of Land Management Needs.” Lawmakers requested the report last year after findings by the Office of the Legislative Auditor revealed that the DNR lacked adequate resources to manage and maintain its existing land holdings.

The DNR report identified funding gaps for the next 10 years in the proposed management of the state’s forests, public waters, aquatic and wildlife areas. Overall, there is an estimated $19 million annual gap between the funds available and those necessary to maintain certain state-owned lands. That amount only includes funds allocated to the DNR and does not include contributions from outside sources, such as nonprofit conservation groups. Legacy funds filtered through the DNR were included, but money for parks and trails was not.

Deputy Commissioner Dave Schad said the funding gap does not mean that state lands are not being actively managed. For example, prescribed burnings may occur less frequently than recommended, and partner organizations may provide alternative management resources.

A pilot project for precision land management in Roseau County is being closely studied by lawmakers as a model for future acquisitions. The project produced a land asset plan in which governmental units could prioritize, consolidate or exchange land for more effective management.

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