In 2008 the Lessard-SAMS bill was voted on and passed by the citizens of our great state. The Outdoor Heritage Fund was part of that Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment. Over the years a few groups with special interests have, in some way, tried to divert funding from the outdoor legacy part of the amendment to different areas that are already covered in the amendment. I had a chance to sit down and talk to Bob Lessard, who the bill was named after, and Gary Leaf of Sportsmen for Change, who was instrumental in getting the amendment passed. At that time they were concerned about a legislator from the Twin Cities who was trying to change the interpretation of the bill in order to channel some of the Outdoor Heritage Fund money into the parks fund to improve a Minneapolis area park. Leaf said that this will be an ongoing thing that we need to watch closely so that it doesn’t end up like the Minnesota State Lottery. The lottery profits were originally supposed to go towards natural resources and the environment but in the end over half of the money goes into the general fund. This obviously didn’t work the way that it was intended to, but thanks to folks like Gary Leaf and Kevin Auslund of Sportsmen Take Action, Minnesota sportsmen are being made aware of any attempt to divert the Outdoor Heritage Fund.
The Minnesota DNR’s designation of new WMA land is proof the Outdoor Heritage Fund is being put to good use.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources recently designated an additional 2,067 acres of newly acquired land as part of 22 existing and new WMAs spread across 19 counties. In total, there are about 1,500 WMAs located in 86 of the 87 counties in Minnesota.
“These WMA lands provide important habitat for game and nongame wildlife species,” said Ed Boggess, DNR Fish and Wildlife Division director. “Enhancing our system of public land strengthens habitat, as well as our Minnesota outdoors tradition by making sure everyone has access regardless of a person’s connections or how much property they own.”
Conservation groups including Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever and The Nature Conservancy, and individuals, who partner with the DNR, played a major role in helping to acquire and protect these new WMA lands.
“We are thankful for the work of these groups and individuals for helping current and future generations continue to enjoy these lands,” Boggess said.
Priority has been placed on enhancing contiguous parcels of WMA land to provide important, high-quality habitat. As public land, it can be managed for the long term and allow fish and wildlife populations to cope with changing environmental conditions.
Of the 2,067 new acres of WMA land, 1,297 acres were paid for with funds from the Outdoor Heritage Fund as recommended by the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council and approved by the state Legislature. The Outdoor Heritage Fund is one of several created by the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment to the constitution in 2008.
In addition to Legacy funds, other major funding sources were the $6.50 surcharge on each small game hunting license sold, and the Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) Critical Habitat Matching Program that equally matches private donations of cash or lands. The RIM matching dollars came from the sale of the critical habitat license plates. The $30 per year charge for each of these colorful plates generates over $3 million a year that can be used to equally match private donations.
The RIM matching dollars are used to acquire or develop critical habitat in the state. To see plate designs and information on ordering them, visit the license plates page. Those looking to find existing public hunting, fishing and trail access can use the DNR Recreation Compass feature online or can purchase DNR Public Recreation Information Maps available from the DNR gift shop, Minnesota’s Bookstore or several sporting goods and map stores around the state.
The maps may also be purchased online. These newly dedicated WMA lands will be posted and developed over the spring and summer months next year and will be fully ready for the 2016 hunting season. The newly designated WMA lands will be added to the Recreation Compass and the PRIM maps in the future.
For more information about WMAs, visit the wildlife management area page.
A few folks are trying open water fishing and having good results but some others not so much. I do believe that pretty much can be said about the sport of fishing under any circumstance. Thanks to my grandson Trevor I was able to enjoy a meal of fresh walleye this past week. I have also heard of a few folks who have been getting quite creative in their fishing like drilling holes in the thin ice while sitting on a fishing pier or venturing out a few feet from shore on paper thin ice in search of fish.
Until next time, be careful when you do decide the ice is thick enough to venture out because with the weather we have been experiencing ice safety will be nothing but unpredictable.
Please remember to keep our troops in your thoughts and prayers, especially during the holidays. They are the reason we are able to enjoy all the freedoms that we have today.