Environment and Natural Resources

This budget has been controversial throughout the 2017 Legislative Session, as Governor Dayton worked to leave a strong legacy in support of clean water and the outdoors and Republican leaders have attempted to block these efforts on multiple fronts. While the Governor proposed a general fund budget of $64 million for environmental activities, Senate Republicans countered with a cut of $40 million, which was reduced to $30 million in the Senate and House conference committee agreement.  After that bill was vetoed, a compromise was struck that includes new revenue from DNR fees increases, and $7.9 million in new general fund spending. (SF 844)

Buffers

The current dates for buffer or alternative water quality practices to be in place on public waters remains November 1, 2017, and November 1, 2018, on ditches. A conditional compliance waiver for 8 months is allowed in certain circumstances; a local agreement can be made between land owners and soil and water conservation districts if certain criteria is met.

DNR Fees

The bill includes additional revenue from various DNR fees, including:

Hunting and fishing fees go from $22 to $25 for a resident angling license; from $30 to 34 for a deer license;
State park fees go from $5 to $7 for a daily pass; from $25 to $35 for an annual pass;
Snowmobile fees go from $75 to $105 for a three-year license;
ATV fees go from $45 to $60 for a three-year license.

Open-Air Swine Basin

The prohibition on new open-air swine basins is extended until June 30, 2022. Under current law, the prohibition expires June 20, 2017.

Scopes on Muzzleloaders

The bill allows anyone to use a scope on a muzzleloader during the muzzleloader deer hunting season. Only individuals age 60 years of age or older or who have a visual impairment (with a special permit) can currently do so.

Blaze Pink

Blaze pink is authorized as an additional color that hunters may wear (in addition to blaze orange) when hunting deer and some small game.

Gross Over Limits Penalty

The gross misdemeanor penalty that applies for certain game and fish law violations where the restitution value is over $1,000 does not apply to threatened or endangered wild animals unless more than one is taken, possessed, or transported in violation of the game and fish laws. The threshold for seizing a game and fish license is lowered from $5,000 to $1,000. An individual is prohibited from getting a game or fish license or taking a wild animal for ten years after a game and fish law violation when the restitution value of the wild animals involved is $2,000 or more.

Contested Case Hearings and Permit to Mine

Property owners or federal, state, or local governments affected by proposed mining project are parties who may file a petition with the DNR to hold a contested case hearing on the completed application.

Calcareous Fens

The DNR commissioner is authorized to allow water appropriations that result in temporary reductions in groundwater resources on a seasonal basis under an approved calcareous fen management plan.

Environmental Quality Board

Some changes are made to the make-up of the Environmental Quality Board, and a budget increase of $250,000 per year is granted. The current requirement that the Environmental Quality Board and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency adopt rules related to silica sand particulate emissions is made permissive instead of mandatory.

Expedited Permitting

Changes are made to procedures for expediting environment and resources management permitting, including allowing project proposers to pay for expedited service for a permit application.

Lead Shot

The DNR is prohibited from enacting restrictions on lead shot prior to July 1, 2019. The agency and some hunters believe banning lead would protect wildlife from lead poisoning, and alternatives to lead shot exist.

This bill does not include provisions regarding un-adopted rules, peer review, a prohibition on local government bans or fees on plastic bags (see Energy section), authorization of golden shiner minnow importation, or authorization of two-line fishing.


Omnibus Legacy Budget

A total of $529.3 million is appropriated from the outdoor heritage, clean water, parks and trails, and arts and cultural heritage funds – the four funds established by the Legacy Amendment approved by Minnesota’s voters in 2008. (HF 707)

Outdoor Heritage Fund

$104.6 million in FY 2018 (FY 2019 funds will be appropriated next year)

  • Prairies: $30.9 million (FY 2018)
  • Forests: $16.8 million (FY 2018)
  • Wetlands: $28.9 million (FY 2018)
  • Habitat: $26.5 million (FY 2018)
  • Administration: $879,000 (FY 2018-FY 2019)

Clean Water Fund

$211.6 million (FY 2018-FY 2019)

  • Department of Agriculture: $17.6 million
  • Public Facilities Authority: $16 million
  • Pollution Control Agency: $52 million
  • Department of Natural Resources: $16.9 million
  • Board of Water and Soil Resources: $90.5 million
  • Department of Health: $9.9 million
  • Metropolitan Council: $1.9 million
  • University of Minnesota: $2 million
  • Legislative Coordinating Commission: $15,000

Parks and Trails Fund

$89.8 million (FY 2018-FY 2019)

  • DNR State Parks, Recreation Areas, and Trails: $35.5 million
  • DNR Regional Parks and Trails Grants: $8.3 million: $17.7 million
  • DNR Parks and Trails Coordination Among Partners: $1 million
  • Metro Parks and Trails Grants — $35.5 million

Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund

$123.4 million (FY 2018-FY2019)

  • Board of the Arts: $58.1 million (47%)
  • Department of Education (Regional Public Libraries): $5 million
  • Minnesota Historical Society: $28.1 million
  • Department of Administration: $20.5 million
  • Minnesota Zoo: $3.5 million
  • Humanities Center: $5.1 million
  • Indian Affairs Council: $2.6 million

The bill:

  • Maintains the recommendations of the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council for appropriations from the Outdoor Heritage Fund.
  • Retains the 40:40:20 parks and trails distribution: 40% to the DNR for state parks and trails, 40% to the Metropolitan Council for metro parks and trails, and 20% to greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails.
  • Keeps a 5% balance in each of the four Legacy funds.
  • Makes changes to the Clean Water Council’s recommendations for appropriations from the clean water fund.
  • Includes a funding shift for $22 million grants to the state’s 90 soil and water conservation districts to help with buffer law compliance. In 2015, legislators said they would fund the first two years of this work with clean water fund money, and future funding would come from the general fund. This bill continues to fund buffer compliance work from the Clean Water Fund.
  • Includes about $19.5 million in eligible funds for the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP), $19.5 million for easements and acquisitions, and $6 million for outreach and implementation.
  • Appropriates $5 million to the Board of Water and Soil Resources to help soil and water conservation districts implement buffers or alternative practices, with up to $2.5 million of it eligible for use outside the CREP area (54 counties with the highest need for improved water quality and habitat protection).
  • Does not include controversial “no net gain of public lands” language that was part of the House bill, or funding for rapid response to the threat of forest pests, including emerald ash borer.
  • Appropriations include:
  • $46.3 million for grants to support Minnesota artists and arts organizations for high-quality arts activities, overcoming barriers to access arts activities and instilling the arts in community and public life;
  • $17.7 million for grants for parks and trails of regional significance outside the seven-county metropolitan area;
  • $8.05 million for grants to Minnesota Public Television;
  • $3.5 million for the Minnesota Zoo;
  • $3.3 million for Minnesota Public Radio;
  • $2.7 million for Como Park Zoo;
  • $1.2 million for the Science Museum; and
  • $1 million for the Minnesota Children’s Museum.

Environmental Trust Fund Appropriations/LCCMR

This bill includes, for the most part, the recommendations of the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) for the appropriation of $59.2 million from the environmental trust fund. They include:

  • $9.6 million for 14 foundational natural resource data and information projects;
  • $3.2 million for nine water resources projects;
  • $2.9 million for seven environmental education projects;
  • $4.7 million for six aquatic and terrestrial invasive species projects;
  • $3.2 million for five air quality, climate change and renewable energy projects;
  • $24 million for 12 projects related to methods to protect or restore land, water and habitat;
  • $14.5 million for nine land acquisition, habitat and recreation projects;
  • $1.3 million for activities related to administration and contract agreement reimbursement.
  • Direction to the LCCMR to review and recommend $20 million for FY2019 Environmental Trust Fund appropriations for buffers, wellhead protection, and other activities that are eligible to match federal CREP funds; and
  • Direction to the LCCMR to consider recommending appropriations of up to 25% of available funds in FY2019 for municipal wastewater treatment programs that serve communities of fewer than 2,000 people.

Overall, the projects are wide-ranging, from enhancing habitat for game birds and pollinators, to connecting youth to the outdoors, to improving shoreline spawning habitat, to monitoring aquatic invasive species such as bighead and silver carp, to fighting terrestrial invasive species such as emerald ash borer, to educating about the environment and natural world, to acquiring land for parks and trails, and more. The bill includes $19.5 million for Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) activities and new language that directs the LCCMR to consider recommending loans from the corpus of the trust fund to small cities and towns for wastewater treatment.


Local Road Wetland Banks

An appropriation of $5 million for the Local Road Wetland Replacement Program allows immediate access to money for this underfunded program. The emergency funds salvage the 2017 construction season for local road projects affected by the lack of wetland replacement credits in about 60 counties, mostly in the southern, central, and western part parts of the state. Without emergency funds, many local road projects could not move forward or would face added costs and delays. The state authorizes the use – on a temporary basis – of credits from other watershed districts where no credits can be found in the local district, and allows somewhat less stringent federal replacement criteria. (HF 434)


Environment and Natural Resources Bills that Did Not Become Law

VETOED: Environment and Natural Resources Budget

This budget has been controversial throughout the 2017 Legislative Session, as Governor Dayton worked to leave a strong legacy in support of clean water and the outdoors and Republican leaders have attempted to block these efforts on multiple fronts. While the Governor proposed a general fund budget of $64 million for environmental activities, Senate Republicans countered with a cut of $40 million, which was reduced to $30 million in the Senate and House conference committee agreement.

Minnesota’s environment and natural resources are central to its economy, culture, and way of life. Senate DFLers argued strenuously this year that in a time of budget surplus, these cuts make no sense and serve to move the state backward on long, hard-fought environmental gains. (H.F. 888)

Environmental Quality Board

Changes to the Environmental Quality Board, such as elimination or removal of jurisdiction for the EQB to consider and investigate environmental issues of community interest.

Buffer Implementation Delay

Two-year delay of buffer implementation requirements, removal of the administrative penalty order option for counties and watershed district enforcement, and exemption from the buffer requirement unless the state or federal government finances the cost.

Clean Air Act Settlement

Language directing the Clean Air Act settlement money to be deposited into a new Clean Air Act settlement account in the environmental fund with a requirement that it cannot be spent until appropriated by law.

Golden Shiner Minnows

Golden shiner minnows can be imported into the state by licensed wholesale minnow dealers if they are certified healthy and free of certain illnesses and originate from a secure facility.

Two-Line Fishing

Anglers can use two lines when fishing in the open water season (except during a catch and release season) with the purchase of a second-line endorsement for $5. Fifty percent of the revenue from these endorsements must be spent on walleye stocking.

Senate DFL Media