The Legacy Amendment
On November 4, 2008, Minnesotans voted for a Constitutional Amendment, the Legacy Amendment, that imposed a 2/8ths of a cent sales tax with the proceeds going to dedicated funding to "protect, enhance, and restore, wetlands, prairies, forests, and fish, game and wildlife habitat...."
The money is to be spent on NEW projects, not to replace money already being spent in these areas. MSRPO will remain vigilant to make sure the money is spent on what voters intended - improving Minnesota, not to plug short term budget deficits.
As part of that process, decision-makers are looking to get input from citizens. We who own forest land and lake-shore property understand well what the Minnesota Statewide Conservation and Preservation Plan recommended -- incentives would help us keep undeveloped shoreline wild, restore degraded shoreline, improve septic and runoff, mitigate milfoil, and protect riparian areas. But if decision-makers do not hear from you, they will not use the money to help those who own shoreline manage it.
MSRPO has long supported the idea of incentives. Currently there are huge, systemic disincentives discouraging us in managing our land in a way that "Protects, restores and enhances" the forests and riparian areas in our care. 43% of the forest land and two thirds of the water front property in Minnesota is privately held by families like ours. We are the largest ownership block - but high property taxes force many to sell or subdivide heirloom properties and accelerate the destruction of our lakes.
Yes, acquiring certain lands is a good way to can protect them. But we cannot buy it all, and public ownership of land is no guarantee of its good management. We should also create a system of incentives that encourages people who own forest and riparian areas to manage them in a way that "Protects, restores and enhances" them for the benefit of future generations.