The Environment and Natural Resources Committee that I serve on has been the one of the most active committees in the Senate this year. One of the first bills we passed also was one of the first bills signed by Governor Mark Dayton – legislation to speed up the state’s environmental permitting process and improve efficiency within the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Department of Natural Resources. That was a bipartisan bill that has been welcomed by our state’s business community.
This week, I signed onto another bill that has bipartisan support, is being supported by the Governor, and is aimed at the outdoors community. Senate File 847 aims to protect Minnesota’s waters by improving control of aquatic invasive species. Specifically, the bill will help slow the spread of aquatic invasive species such as zebra mussels, Eurasian watermilfoil and spiny waterfleas, by authorizing the DNR to perform more thorough watercraft inspections, increase penalties for violators, and require training and permitting for lake-service providers.
I am promoting this bill because it’s an important issue that needs immediate attention. Invasive species have been found in more than 1,000 of Minnesota’s waterways, a number that is likely to grow this summer. They are threatening the health of our lakes and rivers, as well as the future of water recreation that is so critical to our state’s economy, particularly in Northern Minnesota. I am hoping this bill will be considered in the Environment and Natural Resources Committee in the coming weeks.
Last week, the same committee discussed a number of bills related to natural resources. Those included a bill to allow scopes on muzzleloaders, and two related to deer stands. One would allow portable deer stands to be erected and left unattended overnight on public land. The second would remove a height restriction on deer, moose and elk stands. These bills were heard for informational purposes only; they were laid over for possible inclusion in the committee’s omnibus bill that will be released later this session.
Aside from the Senate natural resources committee, I also serve on the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources. The LCCMR is made up of 17 members: Five Senators, five Representatives, five citizens appointed by the Governor, one citizen appointed by the Senate, and one citizen appointed by the House.
The committee is charged with making funding recommendations to the legislature for special environment and natural resource projects, primarily from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund. The Trust Fund was approved by voters in 1988 as an amendment to the state’s Constitution, intended to provide a steady and stable funding source for Minnesota’s natural resources. State lottery proceeds are the most recognizable source of revenue for the Trust Fund and the outdoors projects it supports.
This year, the commission is exploring additional methods to control aquatic invasive species, such as Asian Carp. One project would expand the Coon Rapids Dam on the Mississippi River between Hennepin and Anoka counties. Members are trying to determine if this project will provide an effective barrier to Asian Carp swimming further upstream. The commission also is exploring projects to control land invasive species such as Emerald Ash Borers, as well as how to combat Chronic Wasting Disease in Minnesota’s deer herds.
In the coming weeks, the LCCMR will complete its list of recommended projects and send that list to the legislature for discussion and approval. A full list of current and potential projects funded by the commission can be found online at http://www.lccmr.leg.mn/lccmr.htm.