by T.W. Budig
ECM Capitol reporter
The Republican Senate Monday, April 23, passed its game and fish bill, one including proposed hunting and fishing license fee increases.
But the fee increase provision was markedly changed on the Senate floor.
Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, successfully amended the provision to slot fifty cents from the proposed deer hunting license fee increase towards gray wolf damage compensation funding and fifty cents from other proposed license fee increases to a school trust land compensation account.
Sen. Benjamin Kruse, R-Brooklyn Park, argued the school trust land provision would rightly compensate the state’s school children for the use of their trust lands over the last 150 years by Minnesota outdoors people.
“This is a great, great investment,” said Kruse, who has been active in school trust land reform legislation.
Senators in separate votes amended the license fee increase provision to include the gray wolf and school trust lands compensation provisions.
The entire license fee increase provision — which was voted down last week — passed on 43 to 22 vote.
Under it, resident fishing licenses would increase from $17 to $22; resident small game licenses increase from $12.50 to $15.50; resident deer hunting licenses increase from $26 to $30.
Other license fee increases are included.
The Bakk amendment means the amount of license fee increase revenue slated towards the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) fiscally ailing game and fish fund would be reduced.
But Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, said he believes outdoors men and women would understand.
House Republican natural resource committee chairmen look to working out the details of the proposed hunting and fishing license fee increases in conference committee with the Senate — the House Republican proposal is different than the Senate’s.
Another amendment, offered by Sen. David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, sought to delay the gray wolf hunting and trapping seasons for five years.
As currently proposed, seasons would take place this fall. The DNR estimates the Minnesota wolf population at about 3,000 animals.
Some senators argued that this is too many. And that wolves, becoming more and more used to the presence of humans, are losing their natural fear.
Bakk spoke of parents in northern Minnesota being afraid to leave their children alone to wait for school buses out of fear of wolves.
“The species (wolves) is losing its fear of humans,” Bakk argued.
Losing this fear would be a genetic detriment to the species, he argued.
Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-Brainerd, argued that the DNR gray wolf population estimate is that — an estimate.
There could be 4,000 wolves, not 3,000, he said.
Gazelka spoke of his mother, who lives in northern Minnesota, reporting she was shadowed by a wolf she walked to the mail box.
“I think that’s perhaps stalking,” Gazelka said of the reported behavior.
Other senators saw things differently.
Sen. Terri Bonoff, DFL-Minnetonka, said that to voters in her district the proposed wolf hunting and trapping seasons are issues of concern.
Locally, it’s coyotes, Bonoff argued, that present a problem. And wolves may help to decrease coyote numbers, she argued.
Beyond this, there certainly isn’t a growing wolf population, Bonoff explained.
The DNR has described the state’s wolf population as stable for years.
Another supporter of Hann’s amendment, Sen. Chris Eaton, DFL-Brooklyn Center, argued the number of confirmed wolf livestock kills last year, some 88, was not excessive.
Additionally, some 203 wolves were killed last year in Minnesota, she pointed out.
But Hann’s amendment failed on a 26 to 40 vote.
Gazelka successfully amended onto the game and fish bill his so-called “Freedom to Hunt and Fish Act of 2012” which requires the continuation of the electronic sales of hunting and fishing licenses during state government shutdowns.
Bakk attempted to amend the bill to move the fishing opener date up, but he withdrew the amendment after a number of senators stood to oppose it.
“Don’t take the luster out of it,” argued Sen. Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen, of events planned to coincide with the regular fishing opener.
Bakk withdrew his amendment.
The game and fish bill passed the Republican Senate on a 36 to 30 vote.
Area lawmakers voting in favor of the hunting and fishing license fee increase provision were: Bonoff, Chamberlain, Gazelka, Higgins, Jungbauer, Kelash, Kruse, Latz, Metzen, Michel, Nienow, Olson, Rest, Robling, Sieben, and Wolf.
Voting against: Benson, Brown, Daley, Eaton, Gerlach, Goodwin, Hall, Hann, Koch, Lillie, Limmer, Ortman, Thompson, and Vandeveer.
Area lawmakers voting to delay the wolf hunting and trapping season for five years were: Bonoff, Daley, Eaton, Gerlach, Goodwin, Hann, Higgins, Latz, Metzen, Nienow, Rest, Sieben, and Wolf.
Voting against: Benson, Brown, Chamberlain, Gazelka, Hall, Jungbauer, Kelash, Koch, Kruse, Lillie, Limmer, Michel, Olson, Ortman, Robling, Thompson, and Vandeveer.