Proper Economic Resource Management NEWSLETTER
Vol. 4, No. 2 SUMMER 09

Ogechie Lake Restoration Project: Restoring rice—or reservation?

A proposed Ogechie Lake restoration project is raising concerns related to “tribal sovereignty” and the property and civil rights of all Minnesotans. The project is clouded by the Mille Lacs tribe’s claims of a greatly expanded reservation. The project’s location within Kathio state park, a public resource, adds other concerns.

Proposal and Background

Increasing wild rice harvests on Ogechie Lake, via water level modification, has been brought up in tribal and state DNR planning meetings since 2004. Houston Engineering, an environmental consulting firm, helped the tribe outline the criteria to be included in a feasibility study and completed a study in 2007. It determined water conditions needed to increase harvests by modification, re-location, or removal of the Buckmore dam that creates Ogechie Lake.
Stimulus for this project includes the success of wild rice restoration of Lake Onamia, after a dam was modified there in 1997. Support for lower water levels also comes from seeing more wild rice on Ogechie Lake and Lake Onamia, just downstream of Ogechie and Shakopee Lakes on the Rum River in the drought of 1988 when water levels were very low

A tribal cause

Culturally, spiritually, and ecologically the protection and restoration of wild rice, “manoomin,” is important to the Ojibwe nation. Ricing is considered a key tribal trust resource, tied to cultural identity and the culturally-based stewardship of natural resources.

Wild rice also has long been presented as needed for “subsistence.” A “key point” from a Tribal Habitat and Species Workshop, held February 2009, was made to reinforce this claim. It stated, “Tribes are more at risk to environmental hazards because they subsist on natural resources.”

Concerns raised

The project is caught up in the debate over the Mille Lacs tribe’s claims that their reservation really includes territory in the 1855 Treaty with the Chippewa. The long-gone original 61,000-acre reservation includes three townships along Mille Lacs’ south shore. They consider Rum River’s source and headwaters as being in an Indian reservation.

Theses claims are increasingly promoted, in spite a series of Governors and the current Attorney General’s position that the reservation is limited to the present 4,000-acre reservation.

Ogechie Lake is also located entirely in Kathio state park. Potential assertion of any “tribal sovereignty” over areas reserved for public use is added to unknown impacts on adjacent watershed and wetlands, fish movement, and public access. State parks are a resource set aside for the use of all citizens. Harvesting of wild rice limited to a specific group contradicts the status of a state park. If the wild rice were sold, it would be a favored group’s use of a state asset belonging to all citizens.

Will it work?

The Ogechie project itself is no slam-dunk. Houston Engineering’s reference to Ogechie Lake at the Minnesota Water 2006 and Annual Water Resources Joint Conference in October 2006, stated, “Little guidance exists for restoring ecological processes to natural systems, including those within shallow lakes, which depend on specific hydrologic or hydraulic conditions.”

It’s been trial-and-error to date. According to Houston Engineering’s study summary, the first known Buckmore dam was built in 1933 to raise water levels to increase wild rice harvests, “although anecdotal information suggests the opposite occurred.”

There are other factors besides water level. They include wind, wakes, sediment, competing vegetation, discharges, water clarity, and flow. A Wisconsin Biology technical note on wild rice seeding even suggests that no rice be planted for at least five to eight years after the last appearance of wild rice, due to negative factors other than lack of seed. For example, Ogechie Lake is infested with Zebra mussels, which promotes prolific nuisance algae blooms that could be countering the growth of wild rice.

A DNR wild rice study for the Minnesota legislature, published in February 2008, lists the 732-acre lake as having no acres of wild rice coverage. It is not known how long Ogechie has had the no-rice designation.

DNR Role

The DNR considers Ogechie Lake as unique in its potential for being a critical link—assuming bountiful wild rice—of a waterfowl flyway. DNR objectives also include enhancing Kathio state park’s ability to provide opportunities for cultural and naturalist interpretation, and to mentor youth waterfowl hunting.

The DNR reported its early efforts, and need for a Memorandum of Agreement, to the Mille Lacs County Board. They in turn asked for a chance to provide input. However, the MOA is being negotiated without input under “attorney/client privilege.” The DNR said they would bring a final draft to the Mille Lacs County Board, adding, “we are not asking for permission, but we are open to constructive comments.”

Even with an arm’s length professional relationship of the DNR, the project will cloud the reality behind tribal claims. The DNR is aware of the boundary claims and plans to include a disclaimer in the MOA. It will state that nothing in the MOA is an endorsement of those claims. This tactic has been used in other state agency agreements to avoid the boundary issue in the course of their work.

At the same time, the DNR admitted that tribal harvesting of wild rice would create a “dual agenda” for the park. It is not known if dual agendas exist in any other state park.

Environmental Assessment

The DNR has advised the Band on the environmental review process. Expectations were that a review would have been made public last fall. The DNR also promised a review in response to a request for a public hearing to help people better understand the project. It is the DNR’s intention “to use the environmental review process to allow for that public understanding.”

The Army Corp of Engineers also has to do an assessment. According to the Corps, “the work would undoubtedly require permits from the Corps of Engineers under the Clean Water Act and the Rivers and Harbors Act. If the scope of the work required an individual standard permit, a Public Notice would be issued describing the project and soliciting comments, including requests for a public hearing.”

Both assessments should be good opportunities to learn about and comment on the project.

However, another key point of the Tribal Habitat and Species Workshop seeks exemption from Army Corps assessments. It states, “Tribes would like to see the General Permit and Individual Permit process for tribal restoration projects to be structured under a simplified, streamlined procedure that allows exemptions from review by the Corps when there is a partnership with other Federal agencies.”

Everything a tribe does is in partnership with the BIA. Using federal funds also implies a “partnership.” If the exemption is allowed, it is likely every situation would qualify for exemption from Army Corps environmental review.

Wild Rice Harvest Law

State laws limit wild rice harvests to tribal members and non-tribal members living in areas where it is harvested. When first written, the word “original” was inserted before the term reservation, a distinction that highlights the tribe’s claims of a much larger reservation. That, along with the Ogechie project, may have drawn attention to possible discrimination by these laws.

The Mille Lacs County Board recently wrote a letter to the DNR decrying the “unconstitutional” basis of these laws. (See related story.)

Testing Boundaries

Reservation boundary claims may be tested if wild rice harvesting is attempted within the bounds of Kathio state park, even for “cultural or educational purposes,” as state parks are “not open to harvesting wild rice,” according to the DNR. This could also test the “dual agenda” concept.

Boundary claims may also be tested if federal funding for the project—no state dollars are planned—includes restrictions to reservations only. That may not be a problem for the feds, as they could lean on the thin reed of a 1991 opinion by an enrolled Chippewa BIA attorney, that the original 61,000-acre reservation still exists. This may become clearer once federal funding sources are identified.

Still, Minnesota citizens and county governments may have standing for asking the State to protect their property and civil rights from being stripped away by the de facto creation of a large reservation.

The state itself should have some interest in resolving the boundary claims too. Extra-legal generation of a greatly expanded reservation would create more resource management and law enforcement issues. Lawsuits involving state agencies could be extensive. Not to mention the increased visibility to voters of many elected officials.

Common Cause?

Of course, resolution and closure on the claims of an expanded reservation would eliminate most of the controversy. Adding closure on the constitutionality of wild rice laws might completely unhook the Ogechie project from controversy.

A half measure, but specific to this project, would be for the tribe and DNR to focus on waterfowl flyway restoration—and give the rice to the ducks. That would fit with the DNR’s function, and its role in improving state parks for the benefit of all citizens. It would tie in with broader plans for habitat restoration. And it would be consistent with Indian tribes’ culturally-based stewardship of natural resources. It would also be a clear expression of good neighbors working together for the common good of the larger community.
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Sportsmen to Save Minnesota step up for PERM

Sportsmen to Save Minnesota’s annual Fundraiser and Banquet drew a large crowd again this year. A down economy didn’t hold anyone back.

Meeting and having a great time with friends and fellow advocates was the biggest draw.

Attendees enjoyed dinner, auctions, raffles, and commentary. But they know they are helping defend rights to our hunting and angling heritage.

This year the traditional engraved, signed PERM Commemorative Rifle went to Tony Lattimer. The Marlin 30-30 Commemorative Rifle is becoming a favored item for collectors.

The 12th Annual Sportsmen to Save Minnesota event raised $7,500 for PERM. Many thanks from PERM, for your hard work and generous support!

Bonnie and Mary Popp ready for a winner
Steve Scapanski, left and Matt Traut with a fine addition for his collection
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WHAT are they doing?

Wondering what a state government entity is up to? A new law, effective August 1, may let you in on the action. All state government entities now will be allowed to hold meetings electronically instead of in person—as long as the public has access to the meetings.

The provision to meet by telephone or other electronic means is designed to save state money. It could be a big help for boards or commissions with out-state members who must otherwise commute.

But they cannot use electronic meetings unless the public can be physically present at the regular meeting location.

The law was intended to provide more openness and flexibility for people to participate. So it also states that the public is allowed to access the meeting electronically, to the extent practicable. However, the entity may require a person to pay for any “marginal costs” of providing that access.

Entities planning electronic meetings must post public notice on its web site at least 10 days prior to the event.
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April 2009 winners of PERM Legal Fund Raffle
1 Browning ABolt Hunter 300 Win Mag ......Brooklyn Young ............Ham Lake
2 Marlin 795 22 Long Rifle ...........................Lowell Stark ..................Prior Lake
3 Savage 93R17 17HMR ..............................Alex Smudger ................Brainerd
4 Browning BPS Stalker 12 Ga......................Joe Garske .....................Anoka
5 CVA Wolf 50 CAL MD/300 .....................Dave Sander ..................Milford, IA
6 Winchester Pump 12 Ga .............................Kyle Hanson ..................Mahnomen
7 Ruger 1022 22 Long Rifle ..........................Sandra Meyer .................Hackensack
8 Savage 111 Package (w/scope) 270 ............Mark Rotz ......................Zimmerman
9 Set of Beverly Hills Polo Club Watches .....Donna Jurek ...................Bemidji
10 Set of PERM Prints ..................................Joe Palok .........................Pierz
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PERM 2009 Election of Officers
Board members elected the following candidates to the offices indicated:

Doug Meyenburg as President, Craig Schmidt as Vice President, Howard Hanson as Secretary, and Scott Ebner as Treasurer.

You are invited to call them or other Board members with suggestions, tips, or comments on issues that PERM is or could be working on, or you can email them at savemn@perm.org.
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Swamp tax coming?

Much has been made of efforts to restore an expanded definition of water under the Clean Water [Authority] Restoration Act. [In original title.] “Navigable waters” was the basis of authority for EPA to protect America’s waters under the Clean Water Act of 1972.

With the inevitable mission-creep endemic to all federal agencies, “navigable waters” was ever more broadly defined. Expansion was halted by U.S. Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006. Efforts have been made every year since then to restore the open-ended definition. If passed, federal jurisdiction over state sovereignty and property rights would be restored beyond it’s evolution under the Act up to the Supreme Court decisions.

Now a similar arena for imposition of federal authority may be opening up—this time due to all things “global warming” and the prevention thereof. Instead of “water quality” substitute “carbon sequestration.” That is the ability of plants to remove carbon dioxide from the air and store it, such as with trees or by wetlands. It is not hard to see the Department of the Interior being put in charge.

Currently, federal and state governments are looking at this as part of the solution to global warming. If global warming manages to remain a crisis du jour, “cap and trade” (supply side) and carbon sequestration (demand side) solutions could be deployed—read mandated—under expanded federal jurisdiction.

State lawmakers this year added the term “carbon sequestration” to the state statutes section on Wetland Functions for Determining Public Values. The University of Minnesota also did a study for the DNR and legislature on ecosystems to aid carbon sequestration. Both could add more layers to wetlands management.

If cap and trade passes into law, resources for carbon sequestration could increase in value. As experience has shown, anything that increases in value is soon the target of new taxation. Taxes are based on valuation, not on whether a wetlands owner is ever able to cash in on a cap and trade exchange. If swamps are thus taxed because of global warming politics, property rights could be further sequestered along with the carbon.
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From the Chairman’s Boat ...

How goes the fishing this summer? I still find time to wet a line now and then with some luck this year. The boat is a great time to sit and ponder life as it is today. My condolences go out to those who have lost jobs and can’t find another in these tough economic times.

I tend to follow the news, and I find something quite disturbing on a way too regular basis. Politicians who pat you on the back, look you in the eye, and ask for your support so they can represent you. Once they are seated, it seems like they tend to vote straight party lines. Who do they represent? Can you imagine passing a multi-billion dollar spending bill without reading and digesting the conditions? But they were representing you and me, correct?

This makes me wish for what used to be a standard of governance described by Thomas Jefferson: “A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouths of labor the bread it has earned—this is the sum of good government.”

Is it time to keep a score sheet? It seems like too many of us vote, get busy, and don’t pay attention until we see multi-million dollar TV adds or someone in a parade. In the past I have seen surveys that show 70 plus percent of Minnesotans favor a particular subject, but then it can’t even get a hearing because it conflicts with the ruling party’s platform.

It doesn’t matter which party you show allegiance to, just make sure your politician, whether local, county, state or federal are truly representing you. If not, let them know you will help fire them in upcoming elections.

As they take the oath of office, they swear to uphold the constitution and the laws of the land. Currently sitting major state office holders have been made aware of a Federal Supreme court decision that all of Red Lake, water, basin, and shoreline belongs to the State of Minnesota to regulate for ALL of its citizens. When I bring it up, I get blown off, passed off to some underling who doesn’t have authority to comment, or totally ignored by the people who represent me. Maybe I should stay out of the boat, as bailout used to mean your boat leaks.

Good fishing to all, including those that represent me.

Doug
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The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Constitution
Book by Kevin R. C. Gutzman

In this Guide, readers learn how the Supreme Court uses the Constitution as a cover for the overt seizing of citizens’ right to govern themselves through elections. It shows why and how the Supreme Court should be brought to the proper role given it by the Founders.

A concise introduction to the Constitution, the Guide is only 221 pages of entertaining and lively text.

The Guide shows how far we have gone from the true strength of the Constitution—a representative republic based on federalism and the separation of powers. Instead of state-level decisions and elected officials, judges are setting up a centralized system in which bureaucrats and appointed officials make policy.

Professor Gutzman, who holds advanced degrees in both law and American history, also provides a devastating indictment of the “legal training” that has led ever more jurists to abandon the Constitution under the very banner of the Constitution.
This can be seen in the ascendancy of “legal realism” under the Obama administration. In legal realism, court rulings are defined as a subjective process based on partiality of judges. There are no absolutes. Decisions are made for the greater good. It’s how “empathy” can be used to drive judicial activism.

It is the opposite of legal formalism, in which decisions are based on what the law says and not what the law should be.

Legal realism is often used to supress property rights, because property rights counter the growth of entitlements and special interest groups. Under legal realism, courts write their own versions of law, in defiance of the Constitution, state’s rights, Congress, and the Presidency.
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Waste water a factor for wild rice?

The Mille Lacs tribe’s Waste Water Treatment Facility in Onamia was granted a renewed permit by the EPA last August. The permit allows the treatment and discharge of 625,000 gallons of treated wastewater per day.

The facility treats mostly domestic wastewater from the Vineland Indian Community area and the Garrison Kathio West Mille Lacs Lake Sanitary District, which includes Garrison and Townships of Garrison and Kathio Wastewater is then discharged to a wetland followed by an unnamed tributary, which the flows into Ogechie Lake.

The treatment facility is now in its sixth year of operation. Treated wastewater going into Ogechie Lake could possibly be another factor in the loss of wild rice.

Treatment facility data from constant monitoring of water quality per EPA guidelines could help research on growing wild rice under these conditions. It would be a way for learning whether EPA water quality standards are robust enough for meeting the horticultural requirements of wild rice. Lowered water levels and possible concentration may also have to be considered.

Facility data is public information and is available at the EPA District 5 office. It would be an excellent opportunity for any interested researcher to contribute to the field.
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Excerpt, published with permission from OUTDOOR NEWS July 3, 2009
Ample fish, but gill nets and management aren’t ‘moot’ issues
By Joe Fellegy

Remember that beyond the issues and politics forced on Mille Lacs by treaty gill-net harvests and one-of-a-kind management, bobbers still sink. Walleyes grab crankbaits, crawlers, leeches, and minnows. Landing nets get wet. Gut buckets must be emptied.

Fishing fun aside, that other reality looms–Mille Lacs people, fishing, and management being pushed through a political meat-grinder for almost two decades. Thank the spawning-time tribal gill net fishery, the management contortions, and misguided politics by the Indian industry and its facilitators. A couple times in recent days I got reminded of that issues-and-politics department via WCCO-AM radio.

I caught remarks last Sunday afternoon by Steve Carney, fishing guide and fellow Outdoor News columnist. Carney candidly opined that treaty management and its protected slot limits have helped move the lake’s walleye fishery “out of balance.” The present balance, Carney suggested, lopsidedly favors big fish and negative changes in the predator-prey balance. I have mixed thoughts on that one, but it’s true that even Minnesota DNR Fisheries managers are now concerned about the stock-recruitment issue at Mille Lacs and at some other slot lakes–how too many big walleyes can suppress the recruitment of young walleyes into the adult population.

In recent years, Mille Lacs has produced some huge year-classes of walleyes. Traditionally, exceptional year-classes are big-time contributors to the fishery for years to come. Lately, however, the walleye factory’s big new year-classes have mysteriously down-sized to average or below-average status. Carney, by the way, briefly mentioned the tribal gill-net fishery, which this year removed 50,000-plus walleyes weighing over 100,000 pounds–mainly nice moderate-sized fish.

Not ‘moot’

Back in mid-June, I heard a prominent voice of the outdoors tell radio listeners that the springtime tribal gill-netting at Mille Lacs is a “moot point.” Now, why call anything connected with this costly, many-tentacled giant monster “moot”? Taxpayers fund layers of high-impact state and tribal-federal “co-management” at Mille Lacs and elsewhere across millions of acres of 1837 ceded territory (land sold or ceded to Uncle Sam by the Chippewa). Why must tribal management, and tribal fish and game harvests, be off the discussion table?

Minnesota, by virtue of its statehood, can manage natural resources within its borders. The specifics of how it manages fish and wildlife–including seasons, limits, and methods of take–are justifiably open to public discussion, debate, and advocacy by everyone from deer and duck folks to muskie maniacs and animal-rights folks. Aside from conservation principles and science, there’s politics, economics, and social factors. Nothing is moot.

Following Minnesota’s bungling in the 1837 Treaty/Mille Lacs fishing-hunting case, a 1999 U.S. Supreme Court ruling affirmed that the Chippewa can manage separate harvests in the 1837 ceded territory, inducting Mille Lacs (“at the pleasure of the President.”) But no court ordered that tribal management’s decision-making, harvest policies, political activities, and spending public money must be exempt from accountability, discussion, debate, and criticism. The whole state-tribal management framework results from state–tribal collaboration (some say collusion) and a lower court’s approval. Why should any of it be a “moot” point?

I’m bothered when media, government personnel, politicians, and academics–those would-be defenders of free and open debate, and of the public’s right to know–play by different rules when there’s a tribal connection. Citizen interest is very legitimate here. We’re talking big dollars, natural resources, and who’s got management authority over what, whom, and where. This is big stuff. Declaring it moot, or untouchable, might please Indian industry politicos. But they already have too much cooperation in stifling debate by smearing good people as hate-mongers and anti-Indian racists.
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MIAC scores big

The Minnesota Indian Affairs Council was awarded significant funding under the Lessard–Sams Outdoor Heritage Act. A 3/16th percent tax, initially pursued by outdoor enthusiasts and conservation types, and now enshrined by the Minnesota Constitution, generated the money. Passage was inspired in part by the addition of support for culture and arts heritage, earmarking up to $90 million.

Your outdoor heritage money at work? Funds to MIAC for preservation of Dakota and Ojibwe languages included: $150,000 for a volunteer working group to develop a plans to revitalize and preserve indigenous languages of the 11 federally recognized tribes in Minnesota; $1.25 million for issuing grants for programs to preserve Dakota and Ojibwe Indian languages and to foster educational programs in these languages; and $500,000 for an immersion school and an “Urban Immersion” Project.
Additional funding for Indian language preservation comes out of the University of Minnesota’s $550 plus million for operations. Unspecified amounts were for an Ojibwe Indian language program on the Duluth campus and a training program on the Twin Cities campus to prepare teachers for Dakota language immersion programs.

It’s a great idea—for which funding already exists. Federal programs for language preservation have been in place for some time. They include the Native American Languages Act of 1990, the Alaska Native Language Act of 1990, and the Esther Martinez Native American Languages Preservation Act of 2006.

All told there were $3,713,000 available to “Promote the survival and continuing vitality of Native American languages,” according to a 2008 Federal Money Retriever Report for “American Indian.”
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State sovereignty push includes Minnesota

The quest for the recognition of state sovereignty is growing, in the face of the current huge expansion of federal power.

For years, John Shadegg (R-Ariz.) reintroduced an “Enumerated Powers” Act. It highlighted the Tenth Amendment’s “powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States, or to the people.” It would require Congress to specify the basis of authority in the Constitution for each bill that is introduced and hold Congress accountable for its actions. The Act was just reintroduced June 22 and already has 21 co-sponsors. Last year it reached 52 co-sponsors, up from 28 the session before.

Washington, New Hampshire, Arizona, Montana, Michigan, Missouri, Oklahoma, Georgia, South Carolina, California, Colorado, Texas, Florida, and this year Minnesota, have all introduced bills or resolutions affirming state sovereignty.

The last time there was this level of interest in preserving a state’s rights was in 1832, when federal tariffs affected some states more than others. State-driven nullification succeeded in reversing the tariffs and expansion of federal power.

In 2009, appeals to the 10th Amendment are responses to unfettered government expansion under deficit spending, forced “stimulus” spending, and mandates such as the Clean Water [Authority] Restoration Act, cap and trade proposals, and health care reform. Just this week, Florida legislators proposed a state constitutional amendment to prevent Floridians from being affected by any federal health care legislation. A similar measure has already passed in Arizona.

All are some form of a “cease and desist” demand of the federal government in its violation of state’s rights. Stronger versions reference state nullification of federal laws and regulations passed in violation of the 10th Amendment.

This year Rep. Marty Seifert and 34 co-authors introduced a state sovereignty resolution to halt unconstitutional federal mandates. It also affirmed the states’s sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment. A Senate companion had five co-authors.
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State wild rice law questioned

The Mille Lacs County Board voted unanimously in March to contact the DNR about the harvesting of wild rice in their county. Board members were concerned that a Memorandum of Agreement coming out of the proposed Ogechie Lake restoration project, especially without their input, would increase the discrimination they saw built into the state’s rice harvest law.

Concerns are heightened by the Mille Lacs tribe’s increasingly-made claims for the existence of the enlarged reservation. However, the concerns about this law are considered outside hunting and gathering treaty rights.

The letter lists the following concerns:

* Is the DNR document “Summary of Effects of Minnesota Statutes Section 84.09 and 84.10 on Harvesting of Wild Rice within the Original Boundaries of the Mille Lacs Reservation” still considered operational?

* Does the DNR commissioner appoint the “reservation wild rice committee” members called for by its regulations? If not, then who and how are they appointed? What term do they serve? When are their meetings? Are they open to the public?

* By what authority has DNR concluded that non-Indians who reside in the area are subject to regulation that is not established by their elected representatives?

* Why do DNR’s regulations refer to an “existing” Mille Lacs reservation (having inserted the word “original,”) since Minnesota statutes make no such reference and it contradicts the state’s position as expressed by governor and attorney general?

* DNR regulations have carved out a special class of citizenry and granted special privileges that fellow Minnesota citizens may not enjoy based only on where they reside in the state. What effort is the DNR making with the Legislature to correct what is now clearly unconstitutional?
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WHAT are they spending it on?
Small steps to counter lack of government transparency

Now that everyone’s ox is being gored by budget cuts, people are more interested in knowing what they’re getting for their tax dollar. They want to be able to make their own judgments about spending priorities based on what was spent and what they got for it.

Topics that might be of interest to PERM members include: costs to the state of GLIFWC and tribal DNRs, restocking, of certain lakes, costs of the “co-management” of Mille Lacs, use of Outdoor Heritage Amendment funds, and the costs of state-tribal partnerships.

Initial efforts were made last legislative session to put more government data online and make it easy to search. Rep Paul Gardner’s proposal would have allowed public access to the state’s accounting and procurement system. Rep. Ryan Winkler, and Sen. Ann Rest’s companion proposal, would have directed Minnesota Management and Budget to maintain a Web site with a searchable database of information on state contracts, expenditures and tax information.

MMB actually launched such a site this year, but it is difficult to use and is only for users of Internet Explorer. The site, www.mnb.state.mn.us/tap, allows searches by vendor, spending category, source of funding, and state agency, and uses parameters such as year of expense.

However, some spending is hidden on the MMB site due to “privacy” issues, especially checks to individuals. The site lacks consistent transparency down to city and county levels. Quasi-government entities, such as “development corporations” and “port authorities,” have limited reporting requirements.

None of the proposals came close to being passed by the legislature.

States putting details online

A growing number of other states are putting spending details online, according to USA Today. Currently, 12 states post all state spending, six post the checkbooks of selected departments, and seven have passed laws ordering the creation of spending websites. An additional 15 are considering legislation.

Costs range from Virginia’s estimate of $3 million to Nebraska’s State Treasurer doing it himself for only $38,000.

Tracking the real money

The Obama administration launched a website this year, www.recovery.gov, where people can track most of the $787 billion is “stimulus” funding. But non-interoperability of multiple data silos within federal agencies creates huge barriers. An earlier attempt, usaspending.gov, which came out of the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act in 2006, has gone nowhere. Efforts to give this law some teeth all failed, leaving the site a shell of its potential.
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Why Join PERM

PERM is a non-profit, tax-exempt conservation club dedicated to balanced solutions to natural resource management issues. PERM believes that public natural resources should be managed for ALL citizens—not just special interests or those with political access and clout.

PERM raises awareness about balanced solutions to natural resource management issues. And keeps its members informed. Working together gets results!

Your support is critical for you to be heard while state bureaucracies and tribal governments make decisions about Minnesota’s economic resources.

PERM succeeds because you’re part of it. Stand with your friends. Send a membership contribution today.

If you believe in having a non-partisan watchdog group helping ensure equal protection of the law for all citizens’ sustainable access to Minnesota’s natural resources—Join us! Donate!
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