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DNR faces cuts for 2006-07 if budget is approved
Doug Smith Star Tribune Staff Writer
January 30, 2005 ONOT0130

Hunters, anglers, trail users and state park visitors likely wouldn't notice any major changes under Gov. Tim Pawlenty's Department of Natural Resources budget proposal for 2006-07.

Counties, cross-country skiers and conservation officers would.

Because the DNR's Fish and Wildlife Division is funded primarily by hunting and fishing license fees, those areas dodged general fund cuts.

Still, the DNR faces cutting $11.6 million in general fund dollars under Pawlenty's request, which must go through the Legislature.

"This is a very good budget, given the times we're in," said Brad Moore, assistant DNR commissioner.

But Paul Austin, executive director of the League of Conservation Voters, said the percentage of general fund dollars spent for conservation, the environment and outdoors continues to dwindle.

"Historically, over the past 20 to 30 years, about 2 percent of the general fund went to programs that affect the outdoors," he said. "It's 1.3 percent now, and it drops to 1.1 percent under this budget."

Moore said the proposed budget cuts won't have a major impact on conservation or the economic and recreational activities that rely on those natural resources. And due to increased revenue from other sources, DNR spending actually would increase in 2006-07 over 2004-05.

Pawlenty proposed a $636.2 million budget for the biennium. About $209 million of that comes from the state's general fund. The proposed cuts are 5 percent of those general fund dollars, or about 2 to 3 percent of the overall budget, Moore said.

The biggest cuts would come in payments to counties to make up for property taxes not paid on state lands and to the Forestry Division, where some layoffs could be made.

Fees would rise for use of cross-country skiing trails. A $2 daily pass would increase to $4; a $9 annual pass would increase to $14 and a $24 three-year pass would rise to $39.

Also, conservation officers no longer would assist other

Help for ducks?

While the DNR has cut spending in some areas, it has increased spending in others. Among the proposals is a new $1.8 million, two-year initiative to accelerate protection and restoration of prairie wetland complexes in the state's prairie pothole region. The state dollars would leverage matching dollars from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and The Nature Conservancy has pledged help.
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