Gov. Tim Pawlenty's 15-member Conservation Legacy Council says we need an independent commission that would place private citizens, not government employees, in charge of state conservation programs. This commission would develop a statewide conservation plan and advise the DNR.
The premise behind this suggestion, if I read it correctly, is that an independent commission working with the existing DNR would better manage our natural resources. Presently, 43 state have some type of conservation commission like the one the Conservation Legacy Council suggests we need.
Under the council's plan, the DNR would be accountable to the new commission. That might light a fire under long-time DNR staffers who are calculating when the rule of 90 kicks in for them, but I fail to see how this would remove politics from natural resources management. Who, for starters, would appoint the members of the new commission? The governor? The people?
Sounds like politics as usual to me.
Said Mike Kilgore, a University of Minnesota professor who chaired the Conservation Legacy Council: "The intent is to take the politics out of conservation in Minnesota and make it science-based."
Aren't DNR operations already science-based? If not, what are they based on?
To Mr. Kilgore and his council I say good luck. For it will take even more politics to remove the politics that already exist in natural resources conservation. The council's plan would have to be approved by the Legislature - not a sure thing. Our elected officials would need the collective will to accomplish the gargantuan task of overhauling how natural resources conservation is delivered in Minnesota, and right now they don't even have the will to pass a dedicated funding bill.
So instead of adding another layer of bureaucracy to natural resources conservation, perhaps we should get a funding mechanism in place and see if that jump-starts the present system. I like the idea of holding the DNR more accountable, but it's possible it could do more if it didn't have to battle an ever-shrinking budget. Before we junk the present setup, let's see how it operates with a stable budget.
VINCE MEYER, outdoors editor, may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5862.
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