BASS Times:Conservation measure on Minnesota ballot

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Anglers and hunters in Minnesota will have the opportunity to make a bold statement during this month's election.

"I've been preaching to our members that voting 'yes' on the dedicated funding amendment could be the single greatest conservation contribution of their lifetime," said Mickey Goetting, conservation director for the Minnesota B.A.S.S. Federation Nation.

 With a majority voting in favor, that contribution would come in the form of an estimated $300 million annually for the next 25 years courtesy of the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment to the state constitution. The dedicated funds would be derived from a 3/8 of 1 percent increase in sales tax.

 In part, the proposition reads: "Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to dedicate funding to protect our drinking water sources; to protect, enhance and restore our wetlands, prairies, forests and fish, game and wildlife habitat; to preserve our arts and cultural heritage; to support our parks and trails; and to protect, enhance and restore our lakes, rivers, streams and groundwater ..."

 One-third of the money would go for fish and wildlife habitat and land protection, another third for cleanup of public waters, and the remaining third for enhancing parks, trails and cultural programs. The funds would be overseen by a citizen-legislative council, with some of the money available as matching grants for local conservation projects.

 State Sen. Satveer Chaudhary said the dedicated funding is critical because Minnesota, at present, devotes just 1 percent of its general fund to natural resources, and even less to direct conservation efforts. Most state wildlife agencies, including Minnesota's, are sustained by license fees and federal programs, such as Wallop-Breaux and Pittman-Robertson, but as responsibilities expand for protection of nongame and endangered species, those funds are not enough.

 Missouri, meanwhile, provides a shining example of what can be done with a small percentage of sales tax devoted to conservation. Since citizens approved the measure in 1976, the tax has provided nearly $2 billion for fish and wildlife restoration, habitat protection, Natural Areas program, Stream Teams, fishing and boating access, hatcheries and nurseries, and much more.

 "We've done everything we can with lottery dollars, but that pales in comparison to what this amendment will do," Chaudhary added.

 He pointed out that 40 percent of Minnesota's lakes and rivers are polluted and more than a million acres of natural areas could be lost during the next 25 years.

 "I urge all Minnesotans to consider the importance of preserving our environment and support the dedicated funding amendment this fall to protect Minnesota's outdoor resources for generations to come."

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