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Minnesota's outdoors groups upset with environmental proposals

ST. PAUL -- Many Minnesota natural resources advocacy groups are concerned that the state's $5 billion budget deficit is being balanced at the expense of protecting the environment.

ST. PAUL -- Many Minnesota natural resources advocacy groups are concerned that the state's $5 billion budget deficit is being balanced at the expense of protecting the environment.

The Minnesota Environmental Partnership and Conservation Minnesota expressed frustration at Republican House and Senate budget proposals they say weaken environmental protections and cut funding at a crucial time.

They cited proposals that would exempt new ethanol plants from requirements to complete environmental assessments, place a moratorium on the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency instituting new water rules, increase the allowable level of sulfides in water and reduce the MPCA's budget accepts more work in streamlining permitting processes.

"The state's great outdoors are under assault," said Steve Morse, executive director of the Minnesota Environmental Partnership, which represents a variety of outdoors groups. "It is a wholesale unraveling of the protections on Minnesota's outdoors."

Much of the frustration was aimed at debate over what projects would be funded by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources, which recommends what money the Legislature should spend from money generated by the Minnesota State Lottery.

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Republican leaders stripped several projects recommended by the commission and replaced them with five projects they say are more in line with the current Legislature's priorities. The move primarily eliminated research-related proposals and replaced them with projects dealing with emerging issues.

"Nothing is untouchable anymore," said Molly Pederson, governmental affairs director for Conservation Minnesota.

Andrew Tellijohn is a Twin Cities freelance writer.

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