An outdoors fight brews

projects_map.jpg

Granted it’s not a very good map I’ve posted, but if you can see the red dots, you get the picture. The Lessard Outdoors Heritage Council, the group of citizens that recommends to the Legislature how outdoors money from the increased sales tax should be spent, has spread the projects around, mostly outstate.

Let the debate begin! Should the money be spent in proportion to where people live? Or where the habitat is? The two are often not quite the same.

Oh, wait, it already has.

Rep. Rick Hansen, DFL-South St. Paul, sees this partially as an economic stimulus plan, and says restoration of land (and there’s plenty of land to be restored in the metro) creates jobs. “If you’re doing wetland restoration, you’re hiring a local contractor, you’re buying local seed. If you’re planting trees, you’re buying trees from a local nursery,” said Hanson. “So there’s work involved with that, rather than just the acquisition.”

But Dennis Anderson, the outdoors columnist at the Star Tribune, warns the Legislature against messing with the Council’s recommendations.


ither way, none of this is happening in a vacuum. The constitutional amendment raising the sales tax was approved by nearly 60 percent of voters, and many voters said “yes” because the Lessard council had been established to sift through and recommend fish and wildlife habitat proposals. Succinctly put: No one trusted the Legislature to do this correctly, absent a citizen-dominated advisory group.

Now, should the Legislature mess significantly with the Lessard proposals — and the House apparently will try — a rally is being considered on the Capitol mall by supporters, a rally that will make the similar gatherings there in 2005 and 2006 that attracted some 10,000 conservationists (combined) look like practice.

Over the next few weeks, plenty of sound bites will describe what the 60-percent of those who voted for the sales tax increase intended. If you voted for the increase, what was your intention?

  • Joel

    My personal intention was to see an “overall” improvement of park land. I had nothing particular in mind (save for maybe bike paths), I simple assume by voting for it, I will ultimately receive some value from the results. Either recreationally or environmentally.

  • bsimon

    I am shocked that the Lege has noticed a pot of money & now wants to determine how it should be spent. (I voted ‘no’)

  • Al

    The other half of the ammendment was for the arts. Where do you suppose most of the arts dots will show up? Wasn’t that all part of the calculation of the unnatural pairing of the issues in order to get more votes?

    What I noticed was the absence of dots in the Northeast, where I like to spend my outdoors time. I’m not on the council and not familiar with the process, so it’s hard to criticize their decisions without more research.

  • Chris

    I think the dots represent each individual project, not just the size of them. Minnesota Brown had a post today about how the largest project by volume is located in Itasca County.