Apparently, Minnesota's outdoor writers, who usually weigh in on the decisions of the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council, must have been tied up with previews on the state's waterfowl opener last weekend to report on the council's decisions last week.
There's been nothing until today's report in Politics in Minnesota by Charley Shaw. Shaw notes in Lessard-Sams recommends $102 million in habitat projects for 2014:
The Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council last week wrapped up a hard-fought round of hearings on Legacy funding by making $102 million in recommendations for the 2014 Legislature.
Three items in particular hung on to receive funding despite staunch opposition from some of the 12 members on the citizen/legislator panel. They are funding for habitat projects in metro-area parks, a proposal to acquire land from the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, and funding for aquatic invasive species (AIS). . . .
The Lessard-Sams’ allocations will be presented in bill form to lawmakers, who will get the final say on the appropriations. Although the recommendations are advisory, events in this year’s legislative session established the Lessard-Sams council as the main deciding agent as it pertains to the Outdoor Heritage Fund.
Although the three controversial projects didn’t get everything they asked for in the current set of recommendations, the list of allocations, which last Friday passed the Lessard-Sams council unanimously, is a victory, said Rep. Rick Hansen, DFL-South St. Paul, who serves on the council.
“To walk out of there with some AIS, some metro and the Fond du Lac fully funded, I think, is a big deal,” Hansen said.
To put this reversal on the Fond du Lac funding in perspective, it's worth revisiting St. Paul Pioneer Press outdoors writer Dave Orrick's November 13, 2012 article, Fond du Lac Band again denied Legacy tax funding.
The denial appears to have been centered on tribal refusal to allow wolf hunts:
For the second time this fall, an Indian band has been denied its request for $1.7 million in Minnesota sales tax dollars to buy a lake and surrounding wetlands in northeastern Minnesota.
On Tuesday, Nov. 14, the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council voted to not recommend funding for the proposal by the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.
The proposal -- the first request to use Minnesota Legacy Amendment tax dollars to protect natural habitat on sovereign land -- tapped into a litany of touchy issues surrounding tribal relations, from wolf hunting to how tribal members pay taxes. . . .
Council member Ron Schara said the Indian sovereignty of the land was a concern.
"The issue for me was never hunting and fishing rights," Schara said. "The issue was buying land (to be placed in Indian trust). To illustrate my point, the Fond du Lac closed tribal lands to the wolf hunt. I don't think people who pay sales tax in Minnesota would want us to buy land that could be closed to hunting."
Diver said the decision to close tribe-owned land to wolf hunting -- because wolves are regarded as "our brothers" -- was unique.
"I know of no other species where this would be so disagreeable to us," she said. "Other species are meant to be taken."
When asked whether wolf hunting and trapping would be allowed on band-owned lands next year, Diver said she didn't know.
Apparently the only heritage worth regarding last year was a white notion of the timberwolf as a game animal or varmint. The new Fond Du Lac Band application notes:
The Fond du Lac Band understands and respects the diversity of perspectives on wolf hunting. The Fond du Lac Band also understands and respects the constitutional requirement that land acquired with Outdoor Heritage Fund monies be open to public fishing and hunting unless other provided by law. Traditional Ojibwe culture teaches that the wolf was created to be man’s companion and the fate of one is linked with the fate of the other. We believe that a balanced approach to this issue requires respecting traditional Ojibwe culture. We request that there be no wolf hunting on Band property within the boundaries of the Reservation.
As for the question about tribal people paying taxes, Orrick reported:
Left unstated, at least not fully articulated Tuesday, was the question: Do Indian tribal members pay Legacy Amendment sales taxes?
The short answer: yes.
Through an agreement with a number of Indian groups, including the Fond du Lac, tribal members "pay all applicable taxes (sales, liquor, gas, cigarette) at the state tax rate, regardless of whether the sale is on or off the reservation," said Mark Pederson, an attorney with the Minnesota Department of Revenue.
"So the members pay just like anybody else," he said. . . .
Bluestem is ambivalent about wolf hunting, but not tribal sovereignity. Punishing an indigenous band for respecting a deeply held belief was bad decision-making and we're happy to learn of this vote.
Photo: A sign on the border of the Fond du Lac band's border.
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