Along the Vermillion River, Minnesota - Photo: Peter Crouser
In 2008, Minnesota voters passed that state’s record-setting $5.5 billion Clean Water, Land and Legacy constitutional amendment–expected to generate approximately $200 million per year over 25 years to protect and restore natural areas, parks, and lands vital to water quality.
Now a long story by Doug Smith in the Outdoors section of the Minneapolis Star Tribune website highlights the concerns of a few Minnesotans that the Legacy program and other public land acquisition programs may be acquiring too much land.
Each fall, the public lands are tramped by thousands of hunters. The lands also provide prime habitat for non-game wildlife, such as songbirds and swans.
Those public prairies, wetlands and forests also are open for trappers, wildlife watchers, photographers and others who seek wild places. And the lands also prevent erosion and improve water quality . . . .
But increasingly, some legislators, county officials and farm groups are questioning the state’s policy of acquiring lands. Their concerns clash head-on with hunting and other conservation groups, who say land acquisition should remain a key component of wildlife habitat preservation.
The story goes on to recite the arguments being floated against land aquisition. Buying land for the public takes it off the tax roles (although the piece notes that the state makes payments in lieu of taxes), private landowners shouldn’t have to compete with the public and conservation buyers for parcels, acquisition funding might be better spent on land management.
But Smith concludes by pointing out that only public lands are open for public recreation, that demand for them will grow as population grows, and that they are vital contributors to the state’s $11 billion travel industry.
He might have added that Minnesota voters probably knew exactly what they were voting for in 2008. Certainly that seems to be the sentiment in the comments to the article on the Star Tribune website, which ran heavily in support of more public land. My favorite, entitled simply “Sing It” reads in its entirety: “This land is your land this land is my land!”
Read the entire story here.