On Tuesday, October 9th, the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) met to decide which projects will be invited to give presentations to the Commission, hear three presentations for the 2008 funding cycle, and approve a report on Minimum Standards for Forest Conservation Easements. [Up to this point, the LCCMR has largely been meeting to discuss big picture issues such as developing a statewide conservation plan, how to prioritize appropriations for the 2008 funding cycle, and how conservation easements funded with Environment Trust Fund monies could impact mining rights in the state. Today was the first day that the Commission heard presentations from groups looking for funding, and the meeting was not without its share of controversy.]
The Commission began by taking on the unenviable job of winnowing down the number of projects that will be allowed to give presentations to the panel. In all, 118 proposals were submitted totaling over $98 million. Unfortunately, only about $22.8 million is available to be appropriated next year, meaning that many projects will not get funded or will receive less than they asked for. [In order to begin narrowing down the eligible projects, proposals were ranked according to staff guidelines and Commission members voted on their individual priorities. Projects were then assigned a score based on these criteria. LCCMR members decided that they would hear presentations on projects that achieved a score of 50% or higher.] Sixty-three proposals made the cut. However, these sixty-three projects total approximately $80 million, so tough choices still need to be made in order to get down to the $22.8 million level.
The LCCMR then heard the following three presentations: “Conservation Partners/Environmental Partnerships Matching Grant Program” by the DNR; “Metropolitan Regional Park Land Acquisition” by the Met Council; and “Local Water Management Matching Challenge Grants” by BWSR. All of these projects full under the “Invited Proposals” category, meaning that the LCCMR has requested these agencies to submit projects for consideration. [These three projects have received state funding in the past, and although being in the “invited” category does not ensure that they will receive an appropriation, it is likely that they will receive some level of funding next year].
The Commission finished the day by approving their report on Minimum Standards for Forest Conservation Easements. [In the 2007 legislative session, lawmakers required that before the LCCMR expends the $2 million that was appropriated for Forest Legacy Conservation Easements, the LCCMR must review and approve these minimum standards.] Legislators from northern Minnesota have expressed concern about how such easements could negatively impact the ability to mine lands that have easement restrictions. This has been a hot topic of debate, and the panel spent many hours analyzing this issue over the summer. LCCMR members spent considerable time discussing mining restriction language, as well as other controversial issues such as whether or not detailed information such as appraisal data should be made public. After some rather spirited and sometimes contentious debate, the Commission made several changes to the Standards before giving them their approval. Final language, as well as information regarding all of the proposed projects, can be found at the LCCMR’s website at: http://www.lccmr.leg.mn/
Submitted by: Kirk Pederson, October 11, 2007