BRAD DOKKEN: Sportsmen win with Dayton vetoes

Ron Schara, Bud Grant and other Minnesota conservation advocates deserve a pat on the back for their efforts in persuading Gov. Mark Dayton to veto two line-items in the Legacy Fund bill passed by the Minnesota Legislature.

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Ron Schara, Bud Grant and other Minnesota conservation advocates deserve a pat on the back for their efforts in persuading Gov. Mark Dayton to veto two line-items in the Legacy Fund bill passed by the Minnesota Legislature.

In vetoing the two items -- $6.3 million for metro parks and $3 million for aquatic invasive species -- Dayton made good on a campaign promise to veto any Legacy Fund bill that usurped the authority of the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council.

The 12-member citizens' panel is charged with examining project requests from across the state and recommending how the money is spent.

The two items Dayton vetoed Thursday weren't among the projects the council had approved. That didn't sit well with conservation advocates, who wrote Dayton this week asking that he veto the measures.

The governor did just that Thursday morning.


As Don Davis of Forum News Service reported, Dayton blamed a House panel led by Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, for inserting the two projects into the Legacy Fund bill against the Lessard-Sams council's recommendations.

Calling the decision "extremely difficult," Dayton said he had no choice but to veto the projects because of the House panel's attempt at an end-around.

"I believe it is imperative that the leadership of the House Legacy Committee repair its relations with the Lessard-Sams (Outdoors Heritage) Council and the many sportsmen, outdoor recreation enthusiasts, hunters, anglers and everyone else committed to the enhancement of our state's priceless outdoor heritage," Dayton said. "Otherwise, I have serious doubts that a legacy bill can be enacted in future legislative sessions."

Money for the fund comes from the Legacy Amendment that Minnesota voters approved in 2008, dedicating a small increase in the state's sales tax to natural resources, parks and the arts. The Legacy Fund generates some $300 million annually, including $100 million for fish and wildlife habitat.

As opponents of the House committee's actions wrote in their letters to Dayton, not vetoing the two measures would have gone against the interests of voters who approved the Legacy Amendment.

Besides Schara, a longtime outdoor communicator and TV host, and Grant, the retired Minnesota Vikings coach, a coalition of more than a dozen outdoors groups wrote to Dayton asking for the two line-item vetoes.

Legislative meddling, they said, has no place in the process for choosing Legacy Fund projects. And as Schara wrote, funding projects outside of the council's authority would have set "a very bad precedent.

"Instead of competing before the council, special interests will bombard the Legacy legislative committees with projects that waste taxpayer dollars, and we will end up with one big pork bill," Schara wrote in his letter to Dayton. "If you do not put things right, the sportsmen will never again believe that it is in their interest to support a tax raise as a way to fund outdoor habitat programs. As the pressure on outdoor habitat increases and the funds dry up, we will all lose."


Dayton put things right Thursday, and his actions drew praise from both parties, including Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria.

Schara and Ingebrigtsen both serve on the Lessard-Sams council.

"Gov. Dayton has long stood by his word," Ingebrigtsen said in a statement. "When these provisions were included in the bill, myself and sportsmen from all across Minnesota were worried about the impact this would have. I'm happy to see the governor live up to his word and veto something the council did not recommend."

Chalk up a victory for sportsmen. Dayton's veto should send a message to legislators that meddling with the authority of the Lessard-Sams Council won't be tolerated.

Dokken reports on outdoors. Reach him at (701) 780-1148; (800) 477-6572, ext. 1148; or send email to .

Brad Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and has been the Grand Forks Herald's outdoors editor since 1998.

Besides his role as an outdoors writer, Dokken has an extensive background in northwest Minnesota and Canadian border issues and provides occasional coverage on those topics.

Reach him at, by phone at (701) 780-1148 or on Twitter at @gfhoutdoor.
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