2/12/2014 9:42:00 AM Minnesota sales tax dollars to an Indian band - OK?
Ron Kuecker Outdoors Columnist
A quick review: We voted five years ago to add to our sales tax for the sole benefit of our fish and wildlife, our waters and our arts, parks and trails. Alone among those funding sources fish and wildlife has a special citizens committee called the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council (LSOHC). They review all submissions for spending of their share of funds designated to them. This year it was 109 million dollars. It then goes to the state legislature for approval, they alone can spend that money when accompanied by the governors signature. There has been controversy over where those big bucks should go, that's normal in a free speaking country, but except for last years attempted raid on the fund by Rep. Phyllis Kahn for her Twin Cities urban area, it has gone really well. This year, however, an even more controversial issue came up and possibly an unwanted precedent was set. The LSOHC voted 7-4, one absent, to send $2.8 million of those $109 million to the Fon du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. They will use it to acquire 956 acres of so-called fee land plus restoring 271 acres more in the St. Louis River Watershed. Those will all be part of the 101,000 acre Fon du Lac reservation. Granted, they will have to follow the laws of other state owned land but they can eliminate all wolf hunting and trapping according to added provisions. So big questions arise; should our sales tax dollars be used to purchase land within that of a sovereign nation (Indian reservations by law) and should they be allowed to pick and choose which state laws they will follow. To me, it kinda sounds like the allowable gill netting of walleyes by the bands of Lake Mille Lacs during spawning season. Pulling out those big, mature female walleyes each spring by tribal members has resulted in a huge collapse of walleyes in that lake and will adversely affect many non-tribal people. It seems to me the sovereign bands want to run things their way until they get into trouble, then they come to the rest of us for help. A perfect example of that was the loss of a huge fishery on Red Lake followed by a mostly Minnesota DNR rescue. Local sales tax dollars Within the last year in Cottonwood County some of those sales tax dollars have come home. Approved by the LSOHC and the legislature, the purchase of a couple of really nice additions to the Wildlife Management Area system has taken place. The first was a good portion of the Leland Theisen farm north of Windom, then a 200 acre parcel along the Des Moines River just southwest of Pats Grove County Park. The Theisen parcel contains both a seasonal wetland and some highly desirable upland suitable for waterfowl nesting. Improvements of that land for wildlife have already been started by our Windom Minnesota DNR group and will continue for the next couple of years. The Springfield Township, Section 29, parcel will be added to another Wildlife Management Area just to the north of it. Both of those properties will be managed for river waterfowl, pheasants, deer and a nice local population of turkeys. It is just west of two wild turkey release sites that established our local wild turkey population and connects with very suitable turkey roosting habitat to the east. That's what most of us envisioned when we voted to increase our sales tax for the benefit of the outdoors. Purchasing land within an Indian reservation in northern Minnesota with an out for them on managing certain species within it, I don't think so. If you ever get a chance to thank Scott Rall, Bob Anderson, Ron Schara and Senator Bill Ingebirsten for voting against it please do so. Chide the other seven to send it on to the legislature for approval, that's up to you. I'm wondering, will the governor have the right or courage to line item veto it or will he not dare to in the face of a strong Indian gaming lobby in an election year? Cottontail squirrel I received lots commentary on my most recent column about both white and black phases of the eastern grey squirrel. Here is one I thought all of you might be in interested in. Mark Slupe of Brainerd sent me a great photo of a black squirrel with a three-inch white tip to the end of its tail. He thought it was about five years old and commented that people driving by frequently stop to photo it. It must have left the end of its tail hanging out of its nest too far one cold night and froze it. It then grew back white. Or, it is a new crossbreeding of a rabbit with a black squirrel that we can call the cottontail squirrel. I also conversed with Dr. Peter Franz formerly of the Bingham and Mountain Lake areas at our state veterinary convention last week. I've known and really appreciated Pete for a long time both as a great veterinarian and a fellow outdoor lover. He mentioned that he reads my column in the Observer/Advocate and really enjoys seeing it there. It's been in the Citizen now for 33 years and I do keep track of that. Well, thanks Pete for your kind comments and we also really appreciate that you stay in touch with your local roots and continue to put more roots (the tree kind) down in our county.