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‘My Outdoor Heritage Council dissent has been civil and respectful’

The South St. Paul DFLer, who has been at odds with Legacy Amendment colleagues, defends his stands: “I have not always agreed with the collective decisions of the council, and have voiced my dissent appropriately.”

MinnPost Asks: Rep. Rick Hansen

Rep. Rick Hansen
Rep. Rick Hansen

He’s often been a lone voice on the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council, criticizing some of the decisions made by the advisory body that recommends how the millions in state Legacy Amendment money is spent.

Now Rep. Rick Hansen, DFL- South St. Paul, worries he’ll find himself legislated right off the council.

An attempt last year throw him off didn’t work, but now the council has recommended that the terms of its four legislative members — including Hansen — be changed so that they serve at the will of House and Senate leadership, rather than serving fixed terms

Although other council members said the change wasn’t directed at Hansen, the four-term DFL legislator thinks it was.

Hansen has complained that many council members push their pet projects to the front of the funding line, and he hasn’t been afraid to speak out about it.

We asked Hansen about his interest in the outdoors and his work on the council.

MinnPost: Why did you seek appointment to the council?

Rick Hansen: As a lifelong hunter and angler, I care deeply about the future of Minnesota’s unique natural resources. I was a co-author of the [Legacy] Amendment, served on the conference committee that wrote the Amendment that was sent to the voters and campaigned for the Amendment in 2008. I want to make sure the Legacy funds get the best bang for the buck, and I have the experience to make that happen. For the past six years (two as chair), I served on the Legislative Audit Commission. I wanted to bring that same vigilance to the Outdoor Heritage Council.

MP: You’ve been labeled as an “outspoken critic” of council decisions. Is that fair?

RH: As a legislator appointed to the Outdoor Heritage Council, I have used my best judgment in the decisions that have come before the council. I have not always agreed with the collective decisions of the council, and have voiced my dissent appropriately. My dissent has always been civil, respectful and supported by sound evidence and arguments based on merit. My constituents elect me to make sound decisions with the best available information.

MP: What are some specific decisions you’ve disagreed with, and why?

RH: In this years’ recommendation package, I disagreed with three important decisions:

–The council decided to remove the DNR Commissioners’ responsibility to approve land acquisitions even though Minnesotans will have to permanently pay to manage them.
–A cut of the agencies funding request for restoration evaluations leaving little or no on the ground oversight of spending.
–And the proposal to spend an additional $120,000 for public relations for the council per year, an unnecessary expenditure.

MP: Some say your criticisms have dealt with pet projects of some members. Do you, yourself, belong to any of the outdoors groups that are influential in council discussions?

RH: Yes. I belong to the following organizations:

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• Pheasants Forever
• Ducks Unlimited
• Nature Conservancy
• National Wild Turkey Federation.

MP: How would you allocate Council funding, if it was up to you?

RH: My votes on the Outdoor Heritage Council accurately reflect what I consider the state’s priorities should be. Projects and programs should provide multiple benefits, and all Minnesotans will benefit from the investments in prairies, wetlands and forests.
Here is the link to view my recommendations and compare with other council members.

Deliberations should encourage dissent, not fear it. We do the best for Minnesotans when all facts and opinions are on the table. Special interests should have less power, not more. And decisions made in the confines of that civil discourse should be based on sound science and good government, not politics.

MP: If the Legislature does change the rules and you do find yourself removed from the council, are there ways you’ll stay involved with outdoors funding?

RH: Yes, of course. As an avid sportsman and concerned citizen, I will always stand up for responsible conservation — and I encourage all Minnesotans to do the same. As a state legislator, I have initiated, encouraged, advanced and passed innovative outdoor policies, both when in the minority and majority. Now I am serving on the Environment, Energy, and Natural Resources Policy and Finance Committee, I will have a role in the decision-making process in committee and with votes this session.