The state House on Thursday passed an environment policy bill 74-52 that drew fire from environmental groups.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Denny McNamara, R-Hastings, addresses the ongoing issue of aquatic invasive species. One of the bill’s provisions requires that boat docks, swim rafts or other equipment can’t be moved from one body of water to another until a 21-day interval has elapsed. The bill also establishes inspections of boats before they’re launched at public access sites.
The bill reflects the Legislature’s ongoing push to make the environmental permitting process more business friendly by requiring certain permit applications to be completed in 60 days.
The bill also establishes the so-called Children’s State Forest. The forest, which has been pushed by Iron Range legislators, would exchange federal land in the Superior National Forest for school trust lands in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. Iron Range legislators have complained for several years that the school trust lands can’t be logged and mined in the BWCA and have urged the land to be exchanged for land that can be used for industrial purposes. The forest is named the Children’s State Forest because the sales would generate money for the Permanent School Fund to benefit K-12 schools.
The Minneapolis-based Friends of the Boundary Waters has objected to a straight acre-for-acre exchange arguing that the “magnitude of land would radically change the Superior National Forest and likely increase mineral exploration and development proposals.” The group has advocated a mixture of land sale and land exchange.
The bill also drew criticism from the Minnesota Environmental Partnership for granting an exemption to the de minimis rules in the Minnesota Wetland Conservation Act (WCA). The proposed change makes exceptions in certain cases to the WCA’s strictures that wetlands be replaced when they are drained.
“This is wrong for Minnesota, since wetlands provide habitat for Minnesota’s wildlife, help filter runoff, retain flood waters and help keep our waters clean,” said Steve Morse, MEP’s executive director.