Chris Niskanen: Guiding definitions for Outdoor Heritage Funds not worthy

A familiar scene unfolded late Thursday that has come to define the conflict between the Minnesota House of Representatives and the hunting, fishing and conservation community.

A deal was struck behind closed doors. Lawmakers gave impassioned, but often inaccurate, speeches, and a bill was passed late in the night.

A skilled negotiator, House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher was, in baseball terms, the relief pitcher who struck out the side. She persuaded conservation groups to accept compromise language on controversial definitions that will guide usage of the Outdoor Heritage Fund. House members embraced the language, and this year’s conservation projects recommended by the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council passed the House.

A House-Senate conference committee began working out other differences Saturday.

So why are conservation groups feeling buyer’s remorse?

Because the definitions should be repealed, which is the Senate’s position.

Here’s why:

The issue isn’t about this year’s projects but control over spending the Outdoor Heritage Fund for the next 23 years. A group of House members doesn’t like the citizen-led Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council and wants to wrest power away from it, if not this year, then soon. This is a struggle over political control and advantage, not how much prairie acreage is restored.

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