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Oh really? Look at the 3 bold areas below concerning ducks, I would not say that is high marks...

DNR gets generally high marks
Doug Smith
July 3, 2005 DOUG0703

The millions of dollars raised by Minnesota's hunting and angling licenses generally is being well spent by the Department of Natural Resources, according to a citizens committee that examined last year's expenditures.

But the group raised several questions, including:

• Is reorganization of the DNR's fisheries and wildlife sections, which is costing $300,000 annually, worth it?

• Are anglers getting the most bang for their bucks with the DNR's accelerated walleye stocking program, whose costs have quadrupled the past 10 years?

• Why have Indian treaty management costs increased by more than $250,000 in the past four years, and shouldn't general taxpayers pay more of that?

• Why should anglers pay the $87,000 for the DNR to manage fishing tournaments? Tournament organizers and participants should pay all those costs.

Why does the DNR spend only one-third of the $665,000 it received from state waterfowl stamp sales on wetland habitat management? Sixty percent would be a better figure, the group said.

The 10-member Game and Fish Fund Budgetary Oversight Committee is charged with monitoring the spending of millions of dollars generated yearly by hunting and fishing license fees. It recently issued its annual report on 2004 DNR expenditures.

While the group found no major spending problems, it made several recommendations and said the state's natural resources need more dollars, including constitutionally dedicated funding.

"The public wants to see more ducks, more pheasants, more of everything -- and it takes money to do that," said Rick Horton, committee chair and a biologist with the Ruffed Grouse Society.

Said Horton: "There are a lot of things that need to be done in Minnesota, and we need money to do it. Sportsmen are willing to pay for it, within reason. But we've got to explore some other opportunities, ways to get the general public to continue to put some value on our natural resources."

Among the committee's other comments, questions or recommendations:

• The Legislature should consider indexing to inflation the cost of hunting and fishing fees, permits and licenses. Those fees often don't keep up with inflation, and sometimes it takes years to push fee increases through the Legislature, Horton said.

• The DNR should launch a cormorant-control program on Lake Superior.

• ATVs should be prohibited from the North Shore Trail near Lake Superior because they may damage streams and rivers.

• The group wants the DNR to provide a breakdown of revenues and expenditures between fish and wildlife. A subcommittee said it has repeatedly been "stonewalled" in its efforts to obtain such information.

Spending on Wildlife Management Area acquisitions has been woefully inadequate.

The DNR should put more emphasis on spending dollars for waterfowl habitat improvement and management, and more explicit habitat goals should be included in its management plans.

• A long-range wild turkey action plan is needed.

Ron Payer, DNR fisheries chief, said treaty management costs have increased recently because the agency has been conducting several studies on Lake Mille Lacs -- a hooking mortality study and a walleye and northern tagging studies.

Payer also said the permits for fishing tournaments are free, and that the Legislature would have to impose fees if the agency were to try to recoup its costs of managing the tournaments.

Doug Smith is at [email protected].
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