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2010 Minnesota Statutes

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97A.056 OUTDOOR HERITAGE FUND; LESSARD-SAMS OUTDOOR HERITAGE COUNCIL.

Subdivision 1.Outdoor heritage fund.

An outdoor heritage fund, under article XI, section 15, of the Minnesota Constitution, is established as an account in the state treasury. All money earned by the outdoor heritage fund must be credited to the fund. At least 99 percent of the money appropriated from the fund must be expended to restore, protect, and enhance wetlands, prairies, forests, and habitat for fish, game, and wildlife.

Subd. 2.Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council.

(a) The Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council of 12 members is created in the legislative branch, consisting of:

(1) two public members appointed by the senate Subcommittee on Committees of the Committee on Rules and Administration;

(2) two public members appointed by the speaker of the house;

(3) four public members appointed by the governor;

(4) two members of the senate appointed by the senate Subcommittee on Committees of the Committee on Rules and Administration; and

(5) two members of the house of representatives appointed by the speaker of the house.

(b) Members appointed under paragraph (a) must not be registered lobbyists. In making appointments, the governor, senate Subcommittee on Committees of the Committee on Rules and Administration, and the speaker of the house shall consider geographic balance, gender, age, ethnicity, and varying interests including hunting and fishing. The governor's appointments to the council are subject to the advice and consent of the senate.

(c) Public members appointed under paragraph (a) shall have practical experience or expertise or demonstrated knowledge in the science, policy, or practice of restoring, protecting, and enhancing wetlands, prairies, forests, and habitat for fish, game, and wildlife.

(d) Legislative members appointed under paragraph (a) shall include the chairs of the legislative committees with jurisdiction over environment and natural resources finance or their designee, one member from the minority party of the senate, and one member from the minority party of the house of representatives.

(e) Members serve four-year terms and shall be initially appointed according to the following schedule of terms:

(1) two public members appointed by the governor for a term ending the first Monday in January 2011;

(2) one public member appointed by the senate Subcommittee on Committees of the Committee on Rules and Administration for a term ending the first Monday in January 2011;

(3) one public member appointed by the speaker of the house for a term ending the first Monday in January 2011;

(4) two public members appointed by the governor for a term ending the first Monday in January 2013;

(5) one public member appointed by the senate Subcommittee on Committees of the Committee on Rules and Administration for a term ending the first Monday in January 2013;

(6) one public member appointed by the speaker of the house for a term ending the first Monday in January 2013; and

(7) two members of the senate appointed by the senate Subcommittee on Committees of the Committee on Rules and Administration for a term ending the first Monday in January 2013, and two members of the house of representatives appointed by the speaker of the house for a term ending the first Monday in January 2013.

(f) Compensation and removal of public members are as provided in section 15.0575. A vacancy on the council may be filled by the appointing authority for the remainder of the unexpired term.

(g) The first meeting of the council shall be convened by the chair of the Legislative Coordinating Commission no later than December 1, 2008. Members shall elect a chair, vice-chair, secretary, and other officers as determined by the council. The chair may convene meetings as necessary to conduct the duties prescribed by this section.

(h) Upon coordination with and approval by the Legislative Coordinating Commission, the council may appoint nonpartisan staff and contract with consultants as necessary to carry out the functions of the council. Up to one percent of the money appropriated from the fund may be used to pay for administrative expenses of the council and for compensation and expense reimbursement of council members.

Subd. 3.Council recommendations.

(a) The council shall make recommendations to the legislature on appropriations of money from the outdoor heritage fund that are consistent with the Constitution and state law and that will achieve the outcomes of existing natural resource plans, including, but not limited to, the Minnesota Statewide Conservation and Preservation Plan, that directly relate to the restoration, protection, and enhancement of wetlands, prairies, forests, and habitat for fish, game, and wildlife, and that prevent forest fragmentation, encourage forest consolidation, and expand restored native prairie. In making recommendations, the council shall consider a range of options that would best restore, protect, and enhance wetlands, prairies, forests, and habitat for fish, game, and wildlife, and shall not adopt definitions of "restore", "protect", or "enhance" that would limit the council from considering options that are consistent with the Constitution. The council shall submit its initial recommendations to the legislature no later than April 1, 2009. Subsequent recommendations shall be submitted no later than January 15 each year. The council shall present its recommendations to the senate and house of representatives committees with jurisdiction over the environment and natural resources budget by February 15 in odd-numbered years, and within the first four weeks of the legislative session in even-numbered years. The council's budget recommendations to the legislature shall be separate from the Department of Natural Resource's budget recommendations.

(b) To encourage and support local conservation efforts, the council shall establish a conservation partners program. Local, regional, state, or national organizations may apply for matching grants for restoration, protection, and enhancement of wetlands, prairies, forests, and habitat for fish, game, and wildlife, prevention of forest fragmentation, encouragement of forest consolidation, and expansion of restored native prairie.

(c) The council may work with the Clean Water Council to identify projects that are consistent with both the purpose of the outdoor heritage fund and the purpose of the clean water fund.

(d) The council may make recommendations to the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources on scientific research that will assist in restoring, protecting, and enhancing wetlands, prairies, forests, and habitat for fish, game, and wildlife, preventing forest fragmentation, encouraging forest consolidation, and expanding restored native prairie.

(e) Recommendations of the council, including approval of recommendations for the outdoor heritage fund, require an affirmative vote of at least nine members of the council.

(f) The council may work with the Clean Water Council, the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources, the Board of Water and Soil Resources, soil and water conservation districts, and experts from Minnesota State Colleges and Universities and the University of Minnesota in developing the council's recommendations.

(g) The council shall develop and implement a process that ensures that citizens and potential recipients of funds are included throughout the process, including the development and finalization of the council's recommendations. The process must include a fair, equitable, and thorough process for reviewing requests for funding and a clear and easily understood process for ranking projects.

(h) The council shall use the regions of the state based upon the ecological regions and subregions developed by the Department of Natural Resources and establish objectives for each region and subregion to achieve the purposes of the fund outlined in the state constitution.

(i) The council shall develop and submit to the Legislative Coordinating Commission plans for the first ten years of funding, and a framework for 25 years of funding, consistent with statutory and constitutional requirements. The council may use existing plans from other legislative, state, and federal sources, as applicable.

Subd. 4.Conflict of interest.

(a) A council member may not be an advocate for or against a council action or vote on any action that may be a conflict of interest. A conflict of interest must be disclosed as soon as it is discovered. The council shall follow the policies and requirements related to conflicts of interest developed by the Office of Grants Management under section 16B.98.

(b) For the purposes of this section, a "conflict of interest" exists when a person has an organizational conflict of interest or direct financial interests and those interests present the appearance that it will be difficult for the person to impartially fulfill the person's duty. An "organizational conflict of interest" exists when a person has an affiliation with an organization that is subject to council activities, which presents the appearance of a conflict between organizational interests and council member duties. An "organizational conflict of interest" does not exist if the person's only affiliation with an organization is being a member of the organization.

Subd. 5.Open meetings.

(a) Meetings of the council and other groups the council may establish are subject to chapter 13D. Except where prohibited by law, the council shall establish additional processes to broaden public involvement in all aspects of its deliberations, including recording meetings, video conferencing, and publishing minutes. For the purposes of this subdivision, a meeting occurs when a quorum is present and the members receive information or take action on any matter relating to the duties of the council. The quorum requirement for the council shall be seven members.

(b) Travel to and from scheduled and publicly noticed site visits by council members for the purposes of receiving information is not a violation of paragraph (a). Any decision or agreement to make a decision during the travel is a violation of paragraph (a).

(c) For legislative members of the council, enforcement of this subdivision is governed by section 3.055, subdivision 2. For nonlegislative members of the council, enforcement of this subdivision is governed by section 13D.06, subdivisions 1 and 2.

Subd. 6.Audit.

The legislative auditor shall audit the outdoor heritage fund expenditures, including administrative and staffing expenditures, every two years to ensure that the money is spent to restore, protect, and enhance wetlands, prairies, forests, and habitat for fish, game, and wildlife.

Subd. 7.Legislative oversight.

The senate and house of representatives chairs of the committees with jurisdiction over the environment and natural resources budget shall convene a joint hearing to review the activities and evaluate the effectiveness of the council and to receive reports on the council from the legislative auditor no later than June 30, 2014.

Subd. 8.Revenues.

When a parcel of land that was previously purchased with outdoor heritage funds is transferred to the state, the owner of the land shall disclose to the council and commissioner of natural resources:

(1) all revenues generated from activities on the land from the time the land was purchased with outdoor heritage funds until the land was transferred to the state;

(2) all holding costs associated with managing the land between the time of purchase with outdoor heritage funds and the time the land was transferred to the state; and

(3) the total net revenues as determined by subtracting the costs described in clause (2) from the revenues described in clause (1).

Subd. 9.Lands in public domain.

Money appropriated from the outdoor heritage fund shall not be used to purchase any land in fee title or a permanent conservation easement if the land in question is fully or partially owned by the state of Minnesota or a political subdivision of the state, unless: (1) the purchase creates additional direct benefit to protect, restore, or enhance the state's wetlands, prairies, forests, or habitat for fish, game, and wildlife; and (2) the purchase is approved by an affirmative vote of at least nine members of the council. At least 15 business days prior to a decision under this subdivision, the council shall submit the planned decision item to the Legislative Coordinating Commission. The planned decision item takes effect 15 business days after it is submitted by the council.

Subd. 10.Restoration evaluations.

Beginning July 1, 2011, the commissioner of natural resources and the Board of Water and Soil Resources shall convene a technical evaluation panel comprised of five members, including one technical representative from the Board of Water and Soil Resources, one technical representative from the Department of Natural Resources, one technical expert from the University of Minnesota or the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, and two representatives with expertise in the project being evaluated. The board and the commissioner may add a technical representative from a unit of federal or local government. The members of the technical evaluation panel may not be associated with the restoration, may vary depending upon the projects being reviewed, and shall avoid any potential conflicts of interest. Each year, the board and the commissioner shall assign a coordinator to identify a sample of up to ten habitat restoration projects completed with outdoor heritage funding. The coordinator shall secure the restoration plans for the projects specified and direct the technical evaluation panel to evaluate the restorations relative to the law, current science, and the stated goals and standards in the restoration plan and, when applicable, to the Board of Water and Soil Resources' native vegetation establishment and enhancement guidelines. The coordinator shall summarize the findings of the panel and provide a report to the chair of the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council and the chairs of the respective house of representatives and senate policy and finance committees with jurisdiction over natural resources and spending from the outdoor heritage fund. The report shall determine if the restorations are meeting planned goals, any problems with the implementation of restorations, and, if necessary, recommendations on improving restorations. The report shall be focused on improving future restorations. Up to one-tenth of one percent of forecasted receipts from the outdoor heritage fund may be used for restoration evaluations under this section.

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