In 1988, Minnesota voters approved a state constitutional amendment to dedicate a portion of lottery proceeds to a state Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund.

That amendment has been renewed by voters twice.

Last year, $64 million in funding for dozens of projects under that fund sat in limbo as the Minnesota Senate declined to pass it.

Each year, dozens of projects apply for funding, which the 17-member Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources sifts through. They then recommend which proposals should get funding. Last year, the LCCMR declined to endorse the Senate funding proposal after $1.5 million in wastewater infrastructure funding was added without the group’s input or recommendation.

It’s a new version of an old dispute that led to a lawsuit in 2018, when LCCMR members objected to Senate plans to fund city and county infrastructure with the money from the trust fund.

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In the end, the state lost out on a year of research, restoration and other wildlife efforts.

Some projects approved for funding last year that would have an impact in this area included:

  • $1.925 million to the University of Minnesota for pollution research of chloride, microplastic and PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl in treated sewage that’s often applied to farm fields where livestock feed is grown)

  • $1.8 million to the Mississippi River Aquatic Habitat Restoration to restore habitat and reintroduce freshwater mussels in the Mississippi River

  • $489,000 to the Minnesota Zoo for its freshwater mussel rearing and reintroduction work

  • $129,000 for the Friends of the Mississippi River for pollinator habitat projects

  • $3 million to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources for habitat restoration and management in the more than 1,000 acres of the state’s wildlife management areas

This year, LCCMR is recommending 88 projects for nearly $71 million in funding by the LCCMR, which includes $993,000 in funding for the successful Lawn to Legumes program.

While red-herring arguments might be made about budget shortfalls this legislative session, the trust fund and its use is outlined in the constitution, and the money, by law, can’t be diverted into the general budget.

So if disbursement isn’t approved, the money just sits in the trust.

The projects proposed benefit all Minnesotans; using the fund for leverage for politics is a loss for all Minnesotans.

John Molseed is a tree-hugging Minnesota transplant making his way through his state parks passport. This column is a space for stories of people doing their part (and more) to keep Minnesota green. Send questions, comments and suggestions to life@postbulletin.com.