Investing in Minnesota’s Outdoors Resources

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Minnesota DNR needs your help to establish a new approach to funding conservation and outdoor recreation. We want to hear about your experiences in the natural places you love, your expectations for the future management of Minnesota’s resources, and your ideas for supporting conservation and outdoor recreation opportunities for generations to come.

Minnesotans have a right to and deserve:

  • A wide variety of outdoor recreation and nature experiences 
  • Equitable access to public lands and resources 
  • Healthy, diverse, and thriving natural resources
  • Benefits from functional ecosystems (including clean water and air), regardless of their direct use 

We seek a funding solution that will honor these values and provide for sustainable support for agency mission, goals, and priorities. We are pursuing a solution that is holistic and systems-based, adaptable, accountable, proactive, and effective in serving all Minnesotans equitably.

Minnesota’s current natural resource funding system can’t sustainably support continued conservation, natural resource management, and outdoor recreation opportunities. For example, user fees do not keep pace with inflation and ensure the appropriate stewardship of Minnesota’s natural resources while providing open and affordable access to the outdoors for all people. Minnesotans have demonstrated support for the environment and outdoors through the constitutionally-dedicated Environmental Trust Fund and Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment, however, these funds are not available to support key aspects of natural resource management.

This work is important now in order address the challenges raised by current funding systems while there is time for a thoughtful and organized response.

To start, we want to hear about what you love and value in the Minnesota outdoors. Over the coming months, there will be additional opportunities for you to offer thoughts and ideas, and weigh in as possible funding solutions emerge. Subscribe to stay up to date and to get alerts when there are new opportunities to add your voice to the conversation.

You can also check out what others are saying about the project, including the StarTribune, KEYC-TV, and Forum newspapers.

Minnesota DNR needs your help to establish a new approach to funding conservation and outdoor recreation. We want to hear about your experiences in the natural places you love, your expectations for the future management of Minnesota’s resources, and your ideas for supporting conservation and outdoor recreation opportunities for generations to come.

Minnesotans have a right to and deserve:

  • A wide variety of outdoor recreation and nature experiences 
  • Equitable access to public lands and resources 
  • Healthy, diverse, and thriving natural resources
  • Benefits from functional ecosystems (including clean water and air), regardless of their direct use 

We seek a funding solution that will honor these values and provide for sustainable support for agency mission, goals, and priorities. We are pursuing a solution that is holistic and systems-based, adaptable, accountable, proactive, and effective in serving all Minnesotans equitably.

Minnesota’s current natural resource funding system can’t sustainably support continued conservation, natural resource management, and outdoor recreation opportunities. For example, user fees do not keep pace with inflation and ensure the appropriate stewardship of Minnesota’s natural resources while providing open and affordable access to the outdoors for all people. Minnesotans have demonstrated support for the environment and outdoors through the constitutionally-dedicated Environmental Trust Fund and Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment, however, these funds are not available to support key aspects of natural resource management.

This work is important now in order address the challenges raised by current funding systems while there is time for a thoughtful and organized response.

To start, we want to hear about what you love and value in the Minnesota outdoors. Over the coming months, there will be additional opportunities for you to offer thoughts and ideas, and weigh in as possible funding solutions emerge. Subscribe to stay up to date and to get alerts when there are new opportunities to add your voice to the conversation.

You can also check out what others are saying about the project, including the StarTribune, KEYC-TV, and Forum newspapers.

Questions

Thank you for your interest in this work! We will do our best to respond to each question individually, but may compile a frequently-asked-questions page if we have lots of similar questions or a very high volume of interest.

You need to be signed in to add your question.

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    Could more funding come from adding more Horse Camping sites throughout the State?

    sciencemrsj asked 24 days ago

    Hello and thanks for the question!

    I have captured this idea and we will look more closely into the potential to generate income from increasing horse camping sites. The number of horse passes sold per year has not varied hugely in recent years (about 1500 daily passes, current price $5, and about 4800 annuals per year, current price $21). I did not have recent data on hand about the demand for horse camping (versus pass), but we will continue to explore. One consideration, is that equestrian sports can have a high cost for participation, so there might be limited growth opportunity funding-wise, but again, this is an intriguing idea that we hadn't heard yet. 

    Thank you for sharing! 

    Vanessa


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    Is it possible to do less? Return to the core purpose of DNR. Everyone always want to build new, add this program, build this new trail, stock non native fish in a lake they were never in. These things all cost money to do and maintain. New sources of money to fund things can only come from raising prices or taxes. Then we just price more people out!

    Dw2532 asked 12 days ago

    Hello! Thanks for reaching out on this. Your question is really intriguing and has me thinking about several things. 

    To start – yes! One option is to do less, and intuitively it seems like this would save money. 

    There are a few considerations, however. Let’s explore! 

    • Minnesota benefits directly from natural resource based economies like forestry, mining, and recreation tourism. DNR is partially responsible to help manage these resources sustainably for the benefit of Minnesotans and less management might mean less benefit. 
    • Minnesota benefits indirectly from retaining and drawing businesses and workers who want to live near outdoor amenities. The work of DNR is part of keeping Minnesota a place people want to live, work, and play.
    • It is overall cheaper to conserve environmental resources than to pay for the results of when resources are damaged. For example, it is much cheaper to keep water clean than it is to clean water once it has been polluted (especially if we are cleaning to human drinking water standards), it is cheaper to protect land and wetlands that can hold water when it rains than to fix communities that are flooded, and it is cheaper to keep air clean than pay for the health care associated with breathing dirty air. We save money by having natural systems that function sustainably. 

     

    It is also worth thinking about how we might define the core work of the DNR. Some might interpret core work as what the DNR has done the most or the longest. For example, DNR has a long standing partnership with the hunting community. Over the last several decades, however, the proportion of hunters and anglers in Minnesota has declined while other recreation uses have increased. DNR absolutely considers work with hunters and anglers as core work, and also recognizes that we need to support opportunities with emerging recreation interests.  Similarly, there have been changes with ecological management issues. Emerging diseases in wildlife and spreading aquatic invasive species have joined existing conservation issues like groundwater pollution and pests that damage tree stands, also shifting the work of the agency. 

    Others might see core work as the work most needed to achieve the mission or goals. The mission of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is to work with Minnesotans to conserve and manage the state's natural resources, to provide outdoor recreation opportunities, and to provide for commercial uses of natural resources in a way that creates a sustainable quality of life. The goals and strategies to achieve that mission can be found in the Conservation Agenda and Strategic Plan. There is a lot built in to achieving that mission, and much of it is work required by the legislature, not necessarily the discretion of the agency. 

    All this is to say, that you have asked a really great question! Like many good questions, it raises other questions like:  How do we ensure we are serving Minnesotans now and into the future?  In light of what Minnesotans value, how do we decide how to prioritize our work with limited funds? 

     

    Thank you again for reaching out!

    Vanessa

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    How would the trail pass work, would it be per person, or per bike? And how would it effect people who couldn't afford to pay the trail pass, but still want to have a safe way to commute/enjoy nature?

    Calebh asked 11 days ago

    Hello!

    These are great questions! At this point in the process we are focusing on hearing from folks about what they love in Minnesota's outdoors and the kind of future they want. We will use that information as the foundation to developing tools and solutions for future funding options. 

    A trail pass is one idea we have heard, and answering the questions you offered, especially the question about equitable access and pricing, would be a big part of deciding if it is a fit for Minnesota. 

    Thanks again for reaching out and asking some of these important questions. 

    Vanessa

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    A new source of funding could be a tax on all outdoor equipment sold. Anything we buy to be used in the outdoors for recreation (such as bikes, atv’s, camping equipment, etc)will be helping to support the resources we are using. That way everyone who recreates outdoors can have a spot at the table. My family and I would be more than willing to pay this tax.

    Orliebenz asked 17 days ago

    Hello! 

    Thanks for sharing this idea! Texas voters passed something similar to what you are describing in 2019. In this case it isn’t an additional tax, but the sales tax already being charged on sporting goods was directed to go to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. It will be interesting to explore how an idea like this may work in Minnesota. 

    Thank you again for reaching out!

     

    Vanessa

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    A brilliant way of saving funds that can be put towards positive results driven projects is to stop using public funds when a deer farmer knowingly and purposefully raises/ transports/ sells or dumps CWD infected deer. You're using the taxpayers money to cover up the mistakes of these criminals and protecting a $25 million/annual industry that puts at risk a $500 million/ annual industry that is deer hunting in MN.

    EricN asked 16 days ago

    Thanks for writing in on this. For updates on the agency response to CWD please see this news release from October 11, 2021. You can subscribe to new releases for on-going updates at this page

    Emergent issues, like CWD, do put a strain on agency resources – staff, time, and money. We don’t exactly know what the future will bring, of course, but we do expect the need to respond to more “known – unknows” (things that we expect will come, but don’t know what they are yet). One of the aims of considering the future of funding for the agency is to also think about how we might better position the DNR to be able to respond to emerging issues. 

    Thank you again for sharing your thoughts. 

    Vanessa

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    To help raise funds would it be possible to responsibly harvest timber from some of the landlocked state parks?

    sciencemrsj asked 24 days ago

    Thanks for reaching out with a funding idea! Your question got me thinking more about how we at DNR make decisions about uses on public lands. We have an opportunity in this work to look for flexible solutions that maintain the core services we aim to provide.  I reached out to staff in Parks and Trails and Forestry to help me think about it some more. 

    Timber harvest on DNR lands allows us to responsibly manage the lands we administer and generates revenue across different land types. Depending on the situation, revenue may aid tree planting, help fund schools, or be shared back with counties. State parks are directed by statute (MS 86A.05 subd. 2c) to preserve, perpetuate and interpret the pre-European natural features and other significant natural, scenic, scientific and historic features of the park. 

    Currently, we do a small amount of timber harvesting on an infrequent basis in state parks.  The Department does receive revenue from these sales. The reason for these harvests, however, is to achieve natural resource management goals and enhance the public’s user experience, not to generate funds.  Timber harvest for management reasons in state parks might include removal of trees damaged by disease, preparation for a prescribed burn, or clearing hazard trees for safety. 

    Certainly there is an opportunity to think about how we might generate additional funds from timber harvest on state parks, but we would have to do so with keeping the primary purpose of the park as the leading management goal. 

    Thank you again for reaching out on this! I will make sure this is included in discussions as we move forward. 


    Vanessa

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    A new source of sustainable DNR funding could be a dedicated percentage of a new Minnesota Carbon tax.

    True North asked about 1 month ago

    Hello!

    Thank you for the comment and suggestion! Lots of places are exploring carbon taxes as a way to directly link cost of environmental impacts to the mitigation of those impacts. DNR, as an agency that manages Minnesota public lands and provides recreation opportunities, could make sense as a recipient and steward of funds from a carbon tax, if it were implemented. 

    Thanks again for the suggestion! I will make sure it is included in discussions as the effort moves forward.

    Vanessa

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    DNR should receive a larger share of an increased incremental Legacy Amendment dedicated sales tax (i.e. perhaps it should1.00% instead of 5/8 of one percent)... perhaps the rate could be variable or in some way indexed to CPI or inflation... and be in place for 50 years (instead of the 25 years of the original amendment).

    True North asked about 1 month ago

    Hello!

    Thanks for thinking on this and providing a specific idea for an update to the existing Legacy Amendment. 

    Your comment is inline with a couple different issues that we are thinking about in this effort. One is stability of funding sources as conditions change - specifically, when funding is set but the cost of doing business changes (mostly increases). The second is the long-term predictability of funding sources. The timelines for natural resource management rarely align with funding timelines.  Having funding that is more predictable into the future would allow for planning and management that is more long-term. 

    Thank you again for the suggestion! I will make sure it is included in discussions as the effort moves forward. 

    Vanessa 

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    Might the DNR consider creating an online store where DNR merchandise can be purchased, such as tee shirts, sweatshirts, etc.? We have hiked 59 MN state parks, mostly throughout the pandemic and not every office has been open to purchase tee shirts from. Some parks, like Frank Jevne, are so small that they are supervised by another park so they don’t even have an office, just a kiosk. I recently inquired and was told that we need to contact each individual park office to purchase tee shirts, but even if we did that, it would be a cumbersome process to determine the merchandise for sale via email. We cannot be the only people who feel this way; just the only people who will take the time to pursue the request. Creating an online store might just generate adequate income for the objectives of DNR at this time. Thank you for your kind consideration.

    jpr127 asked about 1 month ago

    Hello and thanks for sharing your experience and idea!

    That is an impressive number of parks! I hope you will consider using the "stories" or "places" features on this page to tell us more about some of your adventures.

    The online store is a really intriguing idea. As you say, I am sure there are others like you who are enthusiastic about the Minnesota State Parks and would like to more easily show their love with a t-shirt, mug, etc from some of their favorite places. 

    I have captured the idea and will make sure it is part of the discussions as the initiative move forward. 


    Thank you again!

    Vanessa

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    The boat ramp on Rabbit Lake (north of Crosby) is in such poor condition that I could not launch. I am sure many of the ramps are in need of repair!

    rangers asked about 1 month ago

    Thanks for reaching out about this! I am sorry you had this experience – it is really disappointing when you are prepared to get out on the water and can’t. 

    I contacted our staff who manage public water access sites. They shared that Little Rabbit Lake in Crow Wing County has two public water access sites, one is owned and operated by Irondale Township (off Bluegill Road)  and the other by Crow Wing County (off Rowe Road).  The DNR is not responsible for maintaining either of these sites. They suggested contacting the local mangers to share your concerns. 

    Your question does bring two important items to mind for me, however. 

    One, it reminds me how disbursed the management of outdoor spaces is. It can be really tricky to know who is in charge of what. I hope through this initiative we can consider this management issue some, so that folks like yourself are having a quality experience outside no matter who is responsible for a place.   

    A second item your question raises is the difficulty of providing services that Minnesotans enjoy under changing ecological conditions. The staff that manage DNR public water access sites also shared with me that the drought has made water too low at many sites to use launches and has complicated repairs.  I don’t know if this was the issue at the launch you tried to use. The DNR is fixing the boat ramps that we can, however when shallow water persists beyond the boat ramp area there is nothing we can do.  The boat ramps are designed to work from the ordinary high water level to the ordinary low water level.  When water recedes beyond the ordinary low it is an opportunity to extend the boat ramp and crews will do so when feasible.  Sometimes low water levels show that there is power loading damage, a hole at the end of the ramp and a mound of material beyond.  This type of damage takes special equipment to fix, and repairs will be performed if the equipment and the water depths are available.

    Thank you again for bringing this issue forward. I hope you were able to find another location to enjoy being on the water!

    Vanessa

Page last updated: 05 October 2021, 11:27