$36.6 Million in Projects Recommended from MN Lottery-Generated Environment & Natural Resources Trust Fund

Recommendations Provide Strong Emphasis on Invasive Species

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SAINT PAUL, MN (07/12/2012)(readMedia)-- At its July 11 meeting the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) completed this year's competitive process for making recommendations to the Minnesota Legislature on funding for special environment and natural resources projects around the state. The LCCMR's recommendations to the 2013 Legislature would provide a total of approximately $36.6 million from the Minnesota Lottery generated Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund ("Trust Fund") to 48 projects to begin in 2013.

The selected projects address an array of issues facing Minnesota's land, water, fish, and wildlife. In particular, this year's recommendations contain a strong commitment to battling a variety of invasive species threats in the state including Asian carp, emerald ash borer, and zebra mussel, among others. Nearly 25% of the funds were allocated toward these purposes.

"I was glad to see the commission come together in an efficient and fair manner to address some very important natural resource issues for the state including Asian carp, declining moose populations, and youth outdoor education," said Co-Chair and State Rep. Tom Hackbarth shortly after the LCCMR recommendations were finalized. Hackbarth facilitated the allocations process at the July 11 meeting.

The 48 projects being recommended address all of the funding priorities specified in the LCCMR's 2012-2013 Request for Proposal (RFP). Those priorities were focused on research, data collection, public education, habitat protection, and other activities that preserve or enhance the state's natural resources in innovative ways. Examples of recommended projects include:

  • A new, first-of-its-kind research center at the University of Minnesota specifically dedicated to developing and implementing new techniques for controlling aquatic invasive species including Asian carp, zebra mussel, and Eurasian watermilfoil;
  • Research into control methods for terrestrial invasive species including emerald ash borer, garlic mustard, and a variety of emerging invasive species threats including oriental bittersweet and Grecian foxglove.
  • Expansion, enhanced protection, and restoration of natural areas in state parks, regional parks, and unique habitat in the metro area and throughout the state;
  • Continuation of research into unique microbes found only in northern Minnesota's Soudan Underground Mine State Park that are showing promise for a variety of applications, including control of White-Nose Bat Syndrome, microbial biofuels, and the removal of metals from contaminated water;
  • Acceleration of the Minnesota Biological Survey, Minnesota Geological Atlas, and the updating of the National Wetlands Inventory that are acquiring essential information for understanding Minnesota's plants, animals, water and groundwater resources, and wetlands;
  • Different water resources research efforts including one that will evaluate recent dramatic changes in Lake Superior's temperature and ice cover and another that will develop and test a technology with promise for generating clean energy from wastewater;
  • Continuation and expansion of outdoor education programs that provide youth with first-hand experiences fishing, canoeing, camping, and working in natural resources conservation.

"These projects will make significant strides into research for aquatic and terrestrial invasive species that have spread throughout Minnesota's landscape along with protecting critical habitats that are home for our diverse native species," said Co-Chair Nancy Gibson, a citizen member of the LCCMR. "These investments are what Minnesotans had in mind when they made the popular and fortuitous vote creating the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund in 1988."

In reviewing the recommendations Co-Chair and state Sen. Gen Olson said, "These recommendations are the result of a successful effort to select projects that provide multiple types of benefits and spread expected impacts throughout the state. One key example in the metro area is a project that will expand the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, a unique Minnesota resource that provides numerous research and educational opportunities while also being highly enjoyed and appreciated by citizens from throughout the state and beyond."

A total of approximately $33.8 million per year is available from the Trust Fund for recommendation by the LCCMR for 2013 and 2014. This year's recommendations focused mostly on the money available in 2013 and there will be another RFP process for the 2014 money next year. However, the commission did decide to recommend allocation of some of the 2014 money this year in order to provide full funding for the new aquatic invasive species research center at the University of Minnesota.

The LCCMR's recommendations will now go before the 2013 Legislature for consideration and approval during the legislative session beginning January 8. Recommended projects will begin work on July 1, 2013, when the funds become available.

In response to the LCCMR's 2012-2013 proposal process, 169 proposals requesting a total of approximately $155 million were received. Combined requests amounted to more than $5 requested for every $1 available, making for a very competitive process. Of the original 169 proposals received, 66 were requested to give presentations and answer questions before the LCCMR. From this reduced pool, 48 projects received a recommendation for some portion of the funds available.

The Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund is a permanent dedicated fund in the Minnesota state treasury that was established by 77% voter approval of a constitutional amendment in 1988. The amendment directs forty percent of the net proceeds of the Minnesota Lottery, or approximately seven cents of every dollar spent on playing the lottery, into the Trust Fund. The Trust Fund is intended to provide a long-term, stable source of funding for innovative and far-sighted activities that protect and enhance Minnesota's environment and natural resources for the benefit of current citizens and future generations. Up to 5.5% of the existing market value of the Trust Fund can be expended each year.

Additional information on the LCCMR's 2012-2013 proposal recommendations and the 2012-2013 proposal process can be found online at: www.lccmr.leg.mn.

Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR)

The LCCMR is made up of 17 members (5 Senators, 5 Representatives, 5 citizens appointed by the governor, 1 citizen appointed by the Senate, and 1 citizen appointed by the House). The function of the LCCMR is to make funding recommendations to the Minnesota State Legislature for special environment and natural resource projects, primarily from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund. The LCCMR developed from a program initiated in 1963. Since then over $735 million has been appropriated to more than 1,700 projects recommended to protect and enhance Minnesota's environment and natural resources.