The third meeting of the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) took place on Tuesday, September 19. In a move to foster forward momentum on the allocation of funds from the committee, outside speakers were invited to present their cases as to why their organizations deserved ongoing funding.
Carmen Converse of the DNR was the first speaker and her presentation focused on the Minnesota County Biological Survey (MCBS). Broad in sweep, and encompassing everything from native plants to rare species, Converse’s presentation emphasized the environmental and ecological depth of the state of Minnesota and the varied data collected for the survey. With a volume of material in hand, Converse’s presentation prompted Sen. Satveer Chaudhary to question what is “the most common use” of a biological survey. Converse responded that the survey was used for such a “multitude of reasons” that pinpointing one specific area wasn’t feasible. Certainly, anyone can see that the volume of research the DNR has done not only exemplifies the multifaceted environmental and ecological systems in the state, but also drives home the need to address each aspect beyond simple data collection and the DNR’s need for funding to retain a competent staff to continue its work. (Converse said a lot of staff were only allotted two-year terms.)
Getting down to numbers, Converse requested funding to complete a statewide survey by 2021 with an option of completing the survey by 2015. To complete by 2021, there would be a funding request of $1.5 million per biennium for a total of $10.5 million; to complete by 2015 a request of $2.5 million per biennium would put the funding request at $10 million. State representative and LCCMR Co-Vice Chair Jean Wagenius requested actual acreage numbers from Converse so that the LCCMR can deliver hard numbers to the public.
Matt Holland, chairman of Pheasants Forever, along with representatives from Ducks Unlimited, presented information focusing on outstate wildlife corridors (Minnesota Habitat Corridor Partnership/HCP). Having had success in bringing private dollars in alongside state funding to meet their goals, Holland emphasized the objective of restoring and enhancing outstate corridors that focused on a broad and unqiue approach. Stating that he would like to see a connection between fragmented habitats built, Holland cited declining funding levels as an issue in making HCP’s objectives realized. In order to complete Phase III (Phase II results are now available), Holland said that funding of $300,000 would be needed to leverage $500,000.
Turning toward metropolitan conservation issues were representatives for the Metro Conservation Corridors (formerly Metro Wildlife Corridors). Kate Drewry, Metro Greenways, and Cordelia Pierson from the Trust for Public Land, cited such accomplishments protecting land and shoreline, involving such areas as the Vermillion River in the Farmington area and Arcola Mills in Washington County. As physical and real examples of conservation that the public can enjoy, the group’s Conservation Strategy Report identifies 25 ecological areas and the urgency needed to address these areas and to build a large and supportive constituency. Keeping nature “close to home” engages the public in their efforts, Pierson said, and such a connection is needed to keep conservation a priority with the public.
Consensus was reached by the committee that presentations by such “tried-and-true” organizations was deserving of ongoing funding. Public input is available and encouraged via this form on the LCCMR’s web site. Public submissions will be reviewed by the committee in upcoming meetings.