Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Winter 2011 State and Federal Updates

A great update from my friend Don MacMillan about important things on the Minnesota and US political landscape for hunters!  Enjoy!

Federal and state Issues
By Don McMillan,
president Minnesota Outdoor Heritage Alliance, past president SCI Federal Issues

     This is the year of another new “Farm Bill” for the Congress.  There are some changes on the horizon that
will have a negative impact on our activities as well as conservation, in general.   one example is the successful “walk in” program that we just began this past year in Minnesota with federal matching funds.  some 10,000 acres of private farm land was enrolled in Minnesota which provided a place to hunt and fish for many Minnesota hunters and fishermen.  Congress has recently removed these matching dollars from the
appropriations process to help reduce the deficit.  This is false economy due to the fact that more hunters in the field equates to more revenues for both the federal and state government.

     At this point, this program is in jeopardy here in Minnesota because our state budget is an issue also so it is unlikely that there will be money available here.   This has been a great program that provides much needed access for those of us who hunt and fish in Minnesota.   As this is an election year and Congress is in a gridlock so don’t expect much in the line of significant legislation to come out of the Congress in 2012.  This year is all about the November presidential Election and the changes that will occur due to redistricting coming out in the middle of February.  one issue that may be resolved by the Congress is the wolf issue in Minnesota.  Because of the way the Endangered species Act is written it is relatively easy for anti-hunting groups like Hsus and to an extent, Sierra Club, to stop turning over management of wolves to the Minnesota DNR and wolf hunting in this state.   These organizations have the ability to keep this issue in the federal courts forever.  our Minnesota Congressional Delegation, with a couple of exceptions, are doing their best to pass a bill in the Congress that would end this stalemate and take the issue out of the courts.  That is the only way that this population of wolves can be managed from a scientific standpoint in this country.  Encourage your Congressman and our two Minnesota senators, Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, to help with this issue.

State Issues
The Minnesota Legislature has a shorter session this year and does not meet until later in January of 2012.  There continues to be many challenges due to a shortage of money in all areas.   The Department of Natural Resources, which regulates most of our hunting and fishing activities, is not exempt from budget cuts which will have to happen to help eliminate large deficits.   Many of us have been asking the Minnesota Legislature to make some modest increases in our hunting and fishing license fees for both residents and nonresidents, but the Minnesota Legislature is reluctant to increase any fees in a bad economy.  However, it has been over 11 years since any of these fees have been increased so an exception should probably be made.   If you have an opportunity, you may wish to discuss this issue with your elected representative House Member or Senator.   We continue to direct a significant amount of resources available through the sales tax increase dedicated by our constitution to improving habitat for our outdoor activities.  This will be the third year of this program
and the money continues to go toward the projects that sportsmen and women in Minnesota had in mind  when this amendment was passed in 2008.  However, this has not been automatic by any means.  It takes a constant presence at the Capitol to make sure that our elected officials do not divert this money to other causes no matter how noble they may be.  This is being accomplished by the groups who belong to the Minnesota outdoor Heritage Alliance (MOHA) including the Minnesota Chapter of SCI.   We continue to educate the legislature and the public to make sure that all of the funds collected go toward projects that enhance and grow habitat for hunting, fishing and trapping in Minnesota.   Don’t forget to thank your legislative representatives for helping make this happen, and if they don’t believe in this program, set them

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