Published June 21, 2011, By: David Lien, For the Duluth News Tribune
Hunters, anglers and others who love the outdoors are concerned about a bill considered, even if briefly, this past session by the Minnesota Legislature. House File 1723 would ask voters whether they want to repeal the Legacy Amendment.
Hunters, anglers and others who love the outdoors are concerned about a bill considered, even if briefly, this past session by the Minnesota Legislature. House File 1723 would ask voters whether they want to repeal the Legacy Amendment. Though the bill didn’t gain significant traction, the fact it was even considered was troubling.
In 2008, Minnesota’s investment in land conservation was at an all-time low. Conservation funding had dropped 47 percent in the previous five years, and Minnesota was spending just 1.1 percent of its general budget on natural resources. Minnesota’s investment in land conservation, at just $5 per person annually, was about half what Wisconsin was spending.
In November 2008, Minnesotans declared themselves fed up with the downward spiral in conservation funding. They took matters into their own hands and passed the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment. According to the Conservation Center, passage of the bill meant an estimated $7.5 billion over 25 years, the largest source of money to natural resources ever in the country.
According to a 2006 survey by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, there are 1.43 million anglers and 541,000 hunters in Minnesota. In addition, there are 1.9 million people who watch wildlife around their homes and 618,000 who travel to watch wildlife. Some 3 million people — about 57 percent of the state’s population — participate in hunting, fishing and other outdoor recreation directly associated with wildlife, according to the survey. Minnesota boasts another 1.4 million recreational boaters, 1.4 million state park users and 250,000 snowmobilers.
The conservation of public land — the acquisition of strategic land for purposes like hunting, fishing, and other outdoor enjoyment — more than pays for itself. “That shouldn’t surprise people,” said Garry Leaf, executive director of Sportsmen for Change. “If you put habitat on the ground, there is a lot of positive economic activity and results.”
According to a University of Minnesota report, touted by Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr, for every dollar spent to conserve natural areas, there is return of between $1.70 and $4.40. And it’s not just Minnesotans who appreciate out state’s abundance of public and other wild lands.
“Ever see a Texas, Oklahoma or Michigan license plate in the woods?” asks Pine Island resident Gary Anderson. “Ever ask them why they drive all that way to hunt a silly ruffed grouse while driving a $50,000 Suburban and carrying a $15,000 custom dog kennel trailer? They come here because Minnesotans have spent some bucks to protect public hunting.”
Even in today’s difficult economic times, Minnesotans place a high value on lakes, rivers, streams and the Great Outdoors. In a statewide poll conducted in November by a bipartisan national polling team, two-thirds of voters agreed: “In these tough economic times, elected officials must be reminded that we want to protect Minnesota’s Great Outdoors for the long-term.”
The Legacy Amendment was conceived by people with a long view to do just that. The hope always was to keep Minnesota looking pretty much like Minnesota so future generations could share in its treasures as past generations have. Nearly 60 percent of voters in 2008 agreed. While everyone understands the need to tighten the budget belt in these difficult times, we shouldn’t let the belt become a noose.
“In the final analysis, conservation is about one thing and one thing only: preventing the destruction of land,” Sports Afield contributor Shane Mahoney said. “We may struggle with any number of other vexing problems, but, in the end, it is the capacity of the Earth to sustain nature that will determine the well-being of humanity, the future of nations and the opportunity for civilization and progress.”