“It is good to realize that if love and peace can prevail on earth, and if we can teach our children to honor nature’s gifts, the joys and beauties of the outdoors will be here forever.” ~Jimmy Carter
Minnesotans have always been known for their love of the great outdoors. This notion was solidified in 2008 when the state voted overwhelmingly to increase funding for clean water, wildlife habitat, parks and trails, and cultural resources. Not only did we choose to increase our taxes by three-eighths of one percent, but we agreed to dedicate that funding to the outdoors until the year 2034.
Four funds were created to appropriate those dedicated funds. Every two years, the Legislature works with the Clean Water Council, Lessard Outdoor Heritage Council, and the arts community to draft legislation allocating money from each of the funds. The following is the current Senate plan as of 5-4-11:
• Outdoor Heritage Fund: Thirty-three percent of the revenue collected by the tax increase is dedicated to restoring, protecting, and enhancing wetlands, prairies, forests, and habitat for game, fish, and wildlife. In 2012, $86.942 million will be invested in Minnesota’s prairies, forests, wetlands and habitat. Projects in the legislation include Washington County St. Croix River Land Protection, the Minnesota Prairie Recovery Project, Forests for the Future, the Conservation Partners Grant Program, and many others.
• Clean Water Fund: Thirty-three percent of the revenue collected by the tax increase is dedicated to protecting, enhancing, and restoring water quality in lakes, rivers, streams, and groundwater. $179 million will be used over the 2012-13 biennium for this cause. Examples of projects contained in the Clean Water Fund include phosphorus reduction grants, shore land stewardship, and groundwater monitoring and protection.
• Parks and Trails Fund: 14.25 percent of the revenue collected by the tax increase is dedicated to supporting parks and trails of regional or statewide significance. $78 million will be used over the 2012-13 biennium to support this effort.
• Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund: 19.75 percent of the revenue collected by the tax increase is dedicated to arts, arts education, arts access, and to preserve Minnesota’s history and cultural heritage. $104 million will be used over the 2012-13 biennium for a variety of projects across the state. Some examples include children’s museums in Duluth, Grand Rapids and Rochester, statewide history grants, and the Minnesota, Lake Superior and Como Zoos.
One resource that may be useful for information on Legacy funding is TheAmendment.org. The website offers Minnesotans a chance to follow where funding is going and news from the Legislature on the Legacy Amendment. Powered by Conservation Minnesota, the goal of the website is to monitor the projects funded by the amendment to assure they deliver real conservation results.
As always, please contact me with questions or suggestions about any issue. Please visit my Senate website at senate.mn/senatorwiger. I also encourage you to visit me at the Capitol, or let me know if you’d like me to stop by your home or apartment. Also, please tune in to my local cable TV show, “Your Capitol: What’s Up?,” which appears on public access channels 15 and 16.