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Dayton proposes budget to improve fish, wildlife management

ST. PAUL -- Gov. Mark Dayton on Thursday proposed a budget to enhance the state’s management of fish and wildlife, recreation programs and enforcement efforts.

The proposal would improve fisheries population surveys, create more forest wildlife habitat, help landowners improve grassland and prairie habitat, improve monitoring and management of wildlife populations and create more opportunities to help get kids and families into the outdoors, according to the governor.

“Gov. Dayton’s proposal is an investment,” Ed Boggess, director of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ Fish and Wildlife Division, said in a statement. “He’s asking the Legislature to allow the DNR to improve management of fish and wildlife, and enhance enforcement efforts, by using dollars that hunters and anglers have already paid when they purchased a license.”

The proposal would use existing money from the state’s game and fish fund to improve fish and wildlife populations, habitat, user facilities and access to information that supports those activities. Dayton’s budget seeks $5.4 million in fiscal year 2016, which begins July 1, and $5.1 million in fiscal year 2017.

In addition, those investments would include reimbursements of $6.1 million from federal excise taxes paid on outdoor gear and marine fuels, reducing the state’s two-year, $10.5 million cost to a net of $4.4 million. None of the dollars would come from the state’s general fund.

Dayton also has proposed to increase capabilities of DNR conservation officers.

“With two dozen vacant stations across the state, the capacity of conservation officers to serve and protect the outdoor public and resources has diminished significantly,” Col. Ken Soring, DNR Enforcement Division director, said in a statement.

The governor’s proposal includes $1.004 million in fiscal year 2016 and $1.523 million in fiscal year 2017 from the game and fish and natural resources funds. This money will be used to hire conservation officers to fill the equivalent of 11 of the 24 vacant field stations over the biennium.

Fishing and hunting generate $3.2 billion in annual retail expenditures and support 48,000 jobs, according to the most-recent economic survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Minnesota’s fishing and hunting opportunities attract 1.5 million licensed anglers and 580,000 licensed hunters, including 300,000 nonresidents and their families who visit Minnesota each year to fish and hunt.

“Conservation funding is a financial model that works,” Boggess said. “Hunters and anglers pay to participate. DNR reinvests those dollars so fish, wildlife, habitat and all Minnesotans benefit.”

Increased funding provided by the governor’s fish and wildlife budget proposal would:

- Allow fisheries staff to better manage lakes, streams and rivers by conducting more fish population and creel surveys.

- Provide better delivery of services that help landowners in southern and western Minnesota create much-needed grassland and prairie habitat.

- Develop more opportunities for youth, adults and families so they become active anglers and hunters.

-Provide more information about managing Minnesota’s 5,000 shallow lakes, which are less than 15 feet deep, contain a significant amount of aquatic plants, and provide important wildlife habitat.

- Create improved habitat for moose, grouse, pine marten and other forest wildlife.

- Expand shooting range access and the number of ranges for archery and firearms.

- Improve the quality and availability of information in online and mobile tools.

- Maintain long-term monitoring of how key lakes change as the climate warms.

- Allow wildlife researchers to investigate the impact of contaminants on grouse and pheasants.

- Provide funding for wildlife research on prairie chickens, grouse, waterfowl, pheasants, furbearers, bear, wolf, squirrel, elk, deer and moose.

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