In November 2008, Minnesota voters passed the Clean Water, Land, and Legacy Amendment, which added 3/8 of 1 percent to the state sales tax. One-third of the revenue generated by this amendment is placed in the state's Outdoor Heritage Fund (OHF) for competitive grants to state agencies and nonprofit conservation organizations such as Ducks Unlimited. This means that approximately $100 million can be used annually to protect, restore, and enhance habitat for fish and wildlife in Minnesota.
Since the first OHF grants were appropriated, nearly $500 million has been dedicated to conservation projects in the state, of which DU has received nearly $25 million to deliver its Living Lakes Initiative.
This initiative focuses on conserving shallow lakes, wetlands, and prairie in the southwestern half of Minnesota's Prairie Pothole Region, as well as on habitat enhancement work on wild rice lakes in the northern portion of the state.
Many individuals and groups make these annual OHF appropriations possible, including DU's supporters in Minnesota, who raise and contribute the private funds required to leverage the grants. Of particular importance are DU's friends in the Minnesota state government and the citizens and legislators who serve on the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council (LSOHC), which makes annual funding recommendations to the legislature.
An important leader in this complicated process is Bill Becker, executive director of the LSOHC. Prior to the passage of the Clean Water, Land, and Legacy Amendment, Becker spent decades administering conservation finances and advocating for funding within the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Since 2008, Becker has been a tireless advocate for the OHF and has helped the LSOHC make wise funding recommendations. Becker also serves as a liaison between the council and the state legislature.
Becker has been a strong, objective supporter of the Living Lakes Initiative, largely because of his passion for duck hunting and concern for waterfowling traditions. Upon the announcement of his impending retirement, Becker was chosen as DU's 2014 Minnesota Public Policy Champion.