Outdoor heritage fund appropriations bill advances

The 2017 Outdoor Heritage Fund Appropriations Bill was heard this week and advanced to the Finance Committee. The bill appropriates $113.9 million from the Outdoor Heritage Fund to restore, protect and enhance the state’s outdoor resources.

This year’s bill funds 47 projects recommended for FY 2019 by the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council. Of the total $113.9 million appropriation, $35 million goes to 14 prairie projects, $9 million goes to 6 forest projects, $28 million goes to 6 wetlands projects, and $50 million goes to 18 habitat projects.

  • Prairie projects include state wildlife management area and scientific and natural area acquisition, a Northern Tallgrass Prairie National Wildlife Refuge land acquisition, the Cannon River Headwaters Habitat Complex projects, and about $5 million for the Board of Water and Soil Resources’ Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) “Buffers for Wildlife and Water” project.
  • Forest projects include a Camp Ripley partnership, a Southeast MN protection and restoration project, new acquisition for the Richard J. Dorer Memorial Forest, a Minnesota moose habitat collaborative, and more.
  • Wetlands projects include RIM wetlands ($10 million for the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program), and $4.8 million for the Shallow Lake and Wetland Protection Program.
  • Habitat projects include the Mississippi Headwaters Habitat Corridor Partnership ($2 million), Fisheries habitat protection on strategic north central Minnesota lakes ($2.8 million), Minnesota Trout Unlimited coldwater fish habitat enhancement and restoration ($2.3 million), and others.
  • 43% of total spending goes to prairies, 31% benefits wildlife habitat, 16% affects wetlands, and 10% is used for forests.

The Outdoor Heritage Fund is part of Minnesota’s Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment, a constitutional amendment that was approved by voters in 2007. The amendment dedicates a small fraction of the sales tax to four areas: outdoor heritage, clean water, parks and trails, and arts and cultural heritage.

The Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council meets through the legislative interim to evaluate proposals and make recommendations to the legislature regarding how these funds are to be spent to meet the intent of the constitutional amendment. While the legislature has authority to make changes in these recommendations, the Senate has a long history of keeping them largely intact. (SF 2688)