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Minnesota would get huge walk-in hunting program under bill
Doug Smith, Star Tribune

Published February 29, 2004 DOUG29

Minnesota hunters would get a huge 1.6 million acre walk-in hunting program under a proposal introduced at the Legislature last week.

That's more land than is in the state's popular wildlife management area system (about 1.3 million acres), the backbone of the state's public hunting land.

Private landowners who chose to participate would be paid by the state to allow public hunting on their lands. They would retain ownership of the land.

"It would open up a lot of land for hunting," said Rep. Tom Hackbarth, R-Cedar, sponsor of the legislation.

The cost: about $16 million yearly.

"Wow," said Tim Bremicker, Department of Natural Resources wildlife section chief, when told of the proposal.

The concept dwarfs a DNR walk-in pilot program pitched in 2002 because of hunter demand for more public hunting lands. Under that plan, the state would have leased 12,000 acres for four years at a cost of about $500,000. That proposal died from a lack of dollars.

Said Bremicker: "I'm pleased to see that folks recognize there's a real interest in a walk-in program, and that the appropriate way to try to get a program started is through a new source of funding."

Several other states, including North and South Dakota, have similar programs.

The walk-in idea is the latest addition to a bill that would dedicate 1/4 of 1 percent of the existing sales tax to natural resources. That would raise about $170 million. Thirty-eight percent -- about $64 million -- would go to fish and wildlife programs.

But under changes to the bill made last week by Hackbarth, chief author, about $16 million of that money would be spent on payments to private landowners "for fishing and hunting privileges."

The remaining $46 million would go for fish and wildlife habitat projects. A 15-member citizens' council would determine how the money is spent.

Parks, trails and zoos would get 27 percent of the $170 million, or about $46 million. A clean water program to restore the states impaired waters would get 35 percent -- nearly $60 million -- an increase over previous proposals

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Wow.

Sounds great, I know other states have similar programs... lets just hope some politician or activist group doesnt put an end to it before it even has a chance.

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This could be great! I have hunted WIA's in other states and hunting was great. It does take good guidelines for what it takes to get paid. I have seen WIA's that had been cut just prior to hunting season, what good is that. I am all for it as long as they are leasing quality lands.

------------------
Will fish for work
Brian Rogers

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BDR, you hit it on the head, some tight rules on the quality would be necessary. No pasture land!!! Or tilled land! I've hunted in SoDak the last several years and we've made it a point to check out the Walk-in Areas. One was great, 320 acres of switchgrass, but a couple of others were tilled wheat stubble and the other was a pasture with buffalo roaming around in the pasture!!! I don't care if they only pay $1 an acre, if its unhuntable, its a waste of money! 16 million dollars would buy a lot of permanent hunting lands!

A second aspect that I don't like about the walk-in concept is that it encourages the idea of 'paying for hunting' here in Minnesota. Right now there is lots of land that you can get permission to hunt by knocking on doors. Once pay hunting starts, whether its walkin money or leasing, it will expand. If Farmer Jones sees his neighbor getting paid for allowing hunting, he'll want to get paid. Then some year funding for walkin stops, they'll still want to get paid by hunters hunting on their land. My final vote would be to spend the money on permanent Wildlife management areas.

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