by Dan Gunderson, Minnesota Public Radio
The Lessard Sams Outdoor Heritage Council is recommending $3.6 million in new funding for aquatic invasive species programs for lake associations in Minnesota.
If approved by the state Legislature, the Minnesota Coalition of Lake Associations would use the money to buy land and equipment to establish regional boat decontamination stations.
The heritage council is recommending that the Legislature approve $102 million in projects that would be funded by the Outdoor Heritage Fund. It was established by the voter-approved Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment which set aside sales tax money for natural resources, arts and cultural heritage.
Although the recommendation to fund invasive species programs is far short of the group’s $25 million Lake Association request, it’s still a big win for lake associations statewide, said Joe Shneider, the association’s vice president.
“This is a landmark event as it relates to the states focus on stopping the spread of aquatic invasive species using the legacy fund,” he said. “This is the first time any major [aquatic invasive species] request has gone through the whole process.”
Earlier this month state Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr told the Outdoor Heritage Council funding a boat decontamination program does not fit the mission established by the legacy amendment.
The current Department of Natural Resources budget for aquatic invasive species is about $8.5 million dollars.
Shneider said his organization is very pleased with the recommendation. He’s confident the legislature will approve the funding.
“I think the political winds are such that there is a high desire to have more funding for aquatic invasive species,” he said. “And using the legacy funds makes it easier for the legislature to accomplish that.”