Newly Announced Conservation Legacy Council: What Is It?

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We’ve got the Legislative Citizens Committee on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) and in August Governor Pawlenty signed an executive order creating the Conservation Legacy Council (CLC). The LCCMR comprises 10 legislative representatives and seven citizen members; CLC comprises 11 citizens nominated by the governor and four legislative representatives. All this seems to beg the question: Do we need both?
A first glance, it appears to be yet another redundancy of governmental process – two committees, each staffed with citizens and legislative Republican and Democratic representatives from both the House and Senate with a focus on how best to allocate funds to preserve and conserve Minnesota Natural Resources.
Brian McClung, Director of Communications for the governor’s office, said that while LCCMR is solely focused on the monies available for protection of resources via the Minnesosta Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund, that is a small portion of the state’s conservation budget.
“CLC will look at the entire spectrum related to governance and funding” of environmental issues, McClung said. “The governor wanted to bring reform to the way the money for the environment and natural resources are governed and funded. This is about taking a global look at how it is handled. The LCCMR has a limited scope. They can’t do what we wanted to do, which is to have experts and legislators governing and funding.”
While the LCCMR does have expert citizens and legislators making recommendations to the House and Senate for funding, what the CLC has that the LCCMR doesn’t is a direct pipeline to the governor.
Beyond that, no one seems to know exactly how much these two entities will overlap — or conflict with each other.

“I’ve always wanted citizen input and supported the process of adding citizens [to the LCCMR],” said Sen. Ellen Anderson, who sits on the LCCMR committee. “Citizens and legislators have different styles of how they bring things to the table.”
Anderson stressed that while the LCCMR has had its share of growing pains as citizens and legislators gather together to determine how best to make recommendations to the legislature for funding conservation and preservation projects, she added that the objective for everyone is the same: “We all want to do good by the environment.”
But Anderson, as well as the LCCMR staff, are in the dark as to how, if at all, the CLC’s objectives parellel the LCCMR and how criticisms of the LCCMR from the CLC could impact the committee. Again, the rub is that the CLC has direct access to the governor while the LCCMR has to follow legislative procedures.
Bruce Hawkinson, a conservation consultant who worked for the DNR for 30 years and was named to the CLC, sees the difference between the CLC and the LCCMR as being vastly different – and isn’t afraid to say that the LCCMR’s day could very well be numbered.
“LCCMR’s mission and statutes are clear about their need to protect water, fish, wildlife and air with a limited funding package,” Hawkinson said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if the LCCMR dollars went away and the CLC became the leader.”
Hawkinson said he believes that with Gov. Pawlenty’s creation of the CLC the “sky’s the limit” in that the CLC’s mission of creating a long-term plan versus the current two-year funding cycle provides a “long-term dedication of funding [that] is going to change the whole landscape of Minnesota.”
LeeAnn Buck, Executive Director of the Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts, doesn’t see the CLC or LCCMR as being redundant entities, but does acknowledge similarities between the two.
“It may be more overlapping. The LCCMR is tied to the lottery fund so I look at the Conservation Council as a little bit broader and looking at broader programs that are not all funded through the LCCMR. I think it’s a more strategic program.”
While it remains to be determined how the CLC and LCCMR may work together or in opposition, it does raise questions as to how many layers of governmental and citizen committees need to be in place to achieve a similar goal: protecting and conserving Minnesota’s environment and natural resources.

The CLC is scheduled to begin meeting in November and updates on the council will be posted on the governor’s web site.

Here are some questions to ponder regarding the CLC. We encourage you to post your comments below.

Do you think the CLC has an advantage over other environmental committees such as the LCCMR in that they have a direct pipeline to the governor?

The Star Tribune’s Dennis Anderson wrote enthusiastically about Governor Pawlenty’s creation of the CLC. And, the governor named Ron Shara, another columnist for the Star Tribune and popular TV personality to the CLC. Do you think there is a conflict of interest here between the media and the governor’s office?

How do you think the state of Minnesota should fund environmental protection and conservation? Do you think there should be multiple committees or one committee that has a broad reach and deep pockets?

How much input and presence do you think citizens should have on these types of committees?

This is from the press release posted on the governor’s web site regarding the CLC: “Currently, various government programs and the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund are funding the protection, enhancement and improvement of our State’s natural resources. However the current funding and delivery structure may not be sufficient to ensure that Minnesotans will continue to have access to quality hunting, fishing, and enjoyment of the state natural resources.” Do you think that the creation of the CLC is too heavily geared toward fishing and hunting protections?

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