As 2008 comes to an end, 2009 will bring new financial challengesWORTHINGTON — The year 2009 is upon us, and with it comes the hope of a new year and time to look back at the one that just passed.
By: Scott Rall, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — The year 2009 is upon us, and with it comes the hope of a new year and time to look back at the one that just passed.
I’ve heard looking back is always 20/20, and looking forward seems much harder. I was looking back and I have to score the 2008 hunting season as a seven on a scale of one to 10.
Pheasants were numerous but down measurably in numbers from last year. It is easy to get spoiled, but this was still a good year by historical averages.
Looking forward, the fish and wildlife front looks very bright. The funding amendment passed, and everything from clean water to fish and wildlife habitat is about to get a big shot in the arm.
Then when all is looking pretty favorable up comes an article in the Star Tribune that manages to throw a big wet blanket on this bright outlook.
There was a law passed in 2005 that was then extended to June of 2009 that the different agencies that manage public lands in Minnesota had to put forth a plan to sell some of these lands to raise $6.44 million which would be transferred to the states general fund.
If these agencies did not manage to accomplish this mandate their budgets would be cut by the amount of the shortfall. To date, approximately $2.4 million has been raised by these land sales and $4 million still needs to be found.
When the citizens of Minnesota voted by an overwhelming margin to give themselves a tax increase so that we could have more habitat, fish and game this mandated land sale really goes against the grain.
There are folks who will tell you that the parcels being sold are smaller, more isolated pieces and many have some form of access issue that makes them hard for citizens to make good use of them.
I understand that this might very well be true, but it is not as if the proceeds of these less than perfect parcels are being sold to repurchase more desirable land. These dollars generated from land sales are vaporizing back into the general fund.
The end result is less public access and in many cases, loss of habitat.
As a worker in many conservation organizations, I know just how hard these volunteers work to raise money and purchase habitat. What is it saying to these folks after all of their time, effort and energy is expended and a habitat is acquired that these efforts can but thrown aside and the property sold by legislative mandate to fund who-knows what other expenditure?
I am all for wisely managed land, and consolidating little parcels might have value as long as the dollars from these sales are reinvested back to the same type of asset they came from.
Maybe this issue can be resolved without additional habitats being sold, but I know that with a $5 billion deficit on the horizon it will be one sticky issue. Minnesotans voted for more habit, not less. Buying habitat on one day and selling it the next and disenfranchising all of your conservation partners alone the way will ultimately leave a sour taste in everyone’s mouth. All of the parties involved need to get on the same page, and they need to do it now.
I wake every day and see the glass as half full. I will continue to do this in ‘09 and beyond, but even with an optimistic outlook, that is no reason for sportsmen and women and those that care about the outdoors to take a ho-hum attitude on this issue.
Get informed and get involved both in this important issue and the ones that will undoubtedly come after it.