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Policy News: Vol. 3, Issue 19

Top stories for May 17, 2011
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Minnesota public lands acquisition effort under attack



The Minnesota House of Representatives recently voted to place a one-year moratorium on new public land acquisitions which would threaten Minnesota investments in fish and wildlife habitats. (Photo courtesy Jeff Weymier)
When Minnesotans overwhelmingly voted to support the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment in 2008, the state's sportsmen expected increased access and opportunities to new wildlife management areas and other restored lands. However, this past weekend, the Minnesota House of Representatives voted to place a 10-year moratorium on new public land acquisitions that would halt investments in fish and wildlife habitats except within the seven-county urbanized metropolitan region. While the House later reduced the amendment to a one-year moratorium, the passage of this amendment imperils important conservation initiatives and could potentially set a dangerous precedent for future land acquisition programs in Minnesota and across the country. It also seems to disregard the intent of the state's voters who supported acquiring public lands. 

The Minnesota House Legacy Fund's appropriations bill also diverts dollars into a special land management account for Payment in Lieu of Taxes and future management expenses. Both purposes may be unconstitutional uses of the money. DU does not support the creation of this land management account. Fortunately, the Senate's version of the appropriations bill does not have the land account and does not have a moratorium on new acquisitions. The legislature will debate these differences and others in a conference committee meeting this week.

DU strongly opposes a moratorium on public land acquisitions and urges its members and supporters to contact their Minnesota state legislators to request they oppose anti-land acquisition legislation. 

David Flink, state chairman of Minnesota DU, is urging DU members and other public lands supporters across the state to contact their elected officials. "The continued acquisition of new public lands is an essential waterfowl habitat conservation tool in Minnesota," Flink said. "With the Minnesota legislative session ending within a week, it is essential DU members immediately voice their opposition to any legislation that creates a moratorium on public land acquisitions." 

GET THE FACTS. GET INVOLVED. 
  • By a 2-to-1 margin, voters support using money from the amendment to conserve wildlife areas to protect water, land and habitat. They are overwhelmingly opposed to diverting money.
  • Minnesota's wildlife habitat is at risk. The state's population is expected to increase by almost 20 percent – more than 1 million people – during the next 25 years.
  • Minnesota could lose more than twice as much wildlife habitat enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program next year alone as was conserved by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources during the past 10 years.
  • Hunting, fishing and wildlife watching is a $4 billion-a-year industry in Minnesota. Hunters and anglers support 55,700 jobs in the state and generate $418 million in state and local taxes.
  • For every $1 invested in wildlife management areas and other state-owned lands, there is a return of up to $4 in Minnesota. Public lands more than pay for themselves.

TAKE ACTION TODAY: DU encourages its Minnesota members and supporters to click here to urge their elected officials to oppose moratoriums on public land acquisitions.


Sportsmen must speak up or waterfowl will suffer 

During the FY 2011 budget approval process, conservation programs critical to waterfowl production faced an uphill battle to receive funding for the remaining year. When the FY 2011 budget finally passed, several major conservation programs, including the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, received budget cuts: 

Interior FY 2010 Enacted FY 2011 Pres. Request FY 2011 Enacted FY 2012 Pres. Request
North American Wetlands Conservation Act 47,647,000 42,600,000 37,500,000 50,000,000
Land and Water Conservation Fund-FWS land acquisition & easements 86,340,000 106,340,000 55,000,000 140,000,000
State & Tribal Wildlife Grants 90,000,000 90,000,000 62,000,000 95,000,000



Sportsmen and other outdoor enthusiasts must make their voices heard to ensure waterfowl initiatives avoid major funding reductions in FY 2012. (Photo courtesy Jessica Beyer)
Understanding that conservation programs will face a similar funding struggle during the FY 2012 budget battle, a variety of organizations are working together in an effort to secure future funding for these important initiatives. 

In order to discuss the challenges facing conservation programs during congressional FY 2012 federal budget negotiations, DU CEO Dale Hall, along with other DU leaders, attended a town hall style meeting hosted by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar on May 10. Secretary Salazar emphasized the funding of critical land conservation efforts are in jeopardy and a variety of public land supporters need to get involved to avoid seeing major reductions on these initiatives.

Reacting to the meeting, Hall said, "Land conservation programs are an essential element for producing waterfowl. In order to ensure these programs are adequately funded, DU supporters and other sportsmen need to tell Congress this is important to them. National wildlife refuges, forests and other public areas produce waterfowl and provide hunting access." 

In addition to Hall, DU leaders from Delaware, Indiana and South Carolina attended the meeting to demonstrate their support for waterfowl habitat conservation. 

The meeting served as a sounding board for a variety of organizations that have interest in land conservation. The groups in attendance came from across the country and ranged from recreationists (hikers, bikers, boaters) to those supportive of historic heritage preservation (protecting battlefields, etc.), industry and business representatives as well as hunters and anglers. Senior officials from previous Republican administrations attended the meeting and also voiced strong support for conservation and recreation funding.

"Regardless of their political affiliation or interest group, those attending this meeting strongly support the continued funding of land conservation for a variety of recreation and historic preservation," Scott Sutherland, director for the DU Governmental Affairs Office, said. "During this time of budget challenges, groups must work together to ensure cost-effective conservation programs are not taking excessive cuts." 


Less than 1 week left to sign: Last chance for your representative to support NAWCA!



DU encourages its members to ask their representatives to support NAWCA funding by signing the Dear Colleague letter before the May 20 deadline. (Photo courtesy Charles R. Thomas)

May 20 marks last day for House members to sign letter in support of FY 2012 NAWCA funding

October 1, 2011 marks the beginning for the federal government's 2012 fiscal year. As we move closer to a new fiscal year, important waterfowl conservation programs will once again be on the chopping block. In a time of budget cuts, it is essential Congress understands the positive economic impact conservation programs, such as the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, provide to local communities across the nation. NAWCA is a cost-effective, bipartisan, match-based grant that raises an average of 3.2 non-federal dollars for every federal dollar invested. 

In order to ensure NAWCA's funding is not eliminated in FY 2012, Ducks Unlimited is requesting members of Congress sign a letter, commonly known as a Dear Colleague, in favor of funding NAWCA in FY 2012. Since the approval process for the FY 2012 budget is expected to begin shortly in the House of Representatives, DU encourages its members to ask their representatives to support NAWCA funding by signing the Dear Colleague letter before the May 20 deadline. 

"If DU supporters don't make their voices heard by Congress, NAWCA could lose valuable funding dollars," Scott Sutherland, director of the Governmental Affairs Office for DU, said. "We have to remember that due to the match, for every dollar cut in this program, it means the ducks lose nearly four dollars worth of habitat conservation."

Click here to ask your U.S. Representative to support NAWCA TODAY!
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