There were only two public information and input meetings in Brainerd, and nothing was decided at either. But what was discussed at both could help shape the Outdoor Heritage Fund.
The Lessard Outdoor Heritage Council will decide how to spend approximately $80 million annually after the Clean Water, Land and Legacy constitutional amendment passed in the November elections. But time is wasting - the council must have its recommendations to the Legislature by April 1.
About 25 area residents were on hand for the second Brainerd meeting earlier this month at Central Lakes College. They and local outdoor agencies didn't discuss anything in depth. But a DNR representative is confident that enough was taken away from the two meetings to help make a difference.
"Probably half didn't make the first meeting (in late December)," Gary Drotts, DNR wildlife manager in Brainerd, said of those attending the second meeting. "We shared some maps of what we have for work areas around here and sat around for a few hours and talked about those."
Potlatch land also was a hot topic at the meeting, Drotts said.
"Locally, I was pleased with how many more new people turned up," Drotts added. "The discussion was good. You get some people to show up and spread the word. People have a passion for the outdoors here."
Like at the first meeting, Kent Montgomery of The Nature Conservancy and Brian Bachman of the North American Bear Foundation and Minnesota Outdoor Heritage Alliance joined Drotts at the second meeting.
While another Brainerd area meeting isn't scheduled before the April 1 deadline, the council will be busy. According to Drotts, it will meet Monday and then meet to draft a budget March 9 before handing that over to the Legislature on March 23, well ahead of the deadline.
"The council has a short time frame and is still struggling with the process - and how do we get through the public input?" Drotts said. "And groups get insulated to their thought process. It's eye-opening to them and those who come to the meetings how broad this is and how much need there is.
"Basically, as it stands now, there's a huge list and enough thoughts and ideas (from the two Brainerd meetings)," Drotts said when asked if a third area meeting was scheduled before the deadline. "We want to get together in late summer or early fall to see if any of the money trickles in. It will be an annual process."
For more on the council and the Outdoor Heritage Fund, go to www.lohc.state.mn.us.
BRIAN S. PETERSON may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5864.
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