The Environment & Natural Resources Trust Fund sustains vital river projects like pollution prevention research, invasive carp control, pollinator habitat restoration and more. But attempted raids have endangered the fund, and legislative inaction has left money on the table.
In 1988 (and twice since then), Minnesota voters approved a constitutional amendment to dedicate lottery proceeds to the state’s Environment & Natural Resources Trust Fund (ENRTF).
The state fund was created specifically for the protection, conservation, preservation and enhancement of "…the state's air, water, land, fish, wildlife, and other natural resources."
Since its inception, the fund has invested over $700 million in more than 1,700 research and restoration projects statewide, including successful FMR habitat projects at places like Spring Lake Park Reserve and Hampton Woods in Dakota County.
And until recently, things were going smoothly. The fund provided about $60 million each year in dedicated environmental funding. Then 2018 and 2020 happened.
Trouble brewing in the last three years
- 2018 & 2019: Legislators attempted to use the environmental fund for prohibited purposes, raiding it for $98 million in the final hours of the 2018 session. In response, FMR took the unusual step of participating in legal action to block the raid. Luckily, the lawsuit worked, and (despite a second attempted raid), FMR and our allies successfully restored the trust fund in 2019.
- 2020: Legislators again tried to raid the fund for prohibited purposes, reanimating concerns about previous raid attempts. In the end, the clock ran out before a final bill could pass. No 2020 ENRTF funding was appropriated at all.
As a result of these raid attempts, ensuring the passage of a clean ENRTF bill has become a top-line priority for FMR.
2021: Let’s get it right
In this legislative session, we want to ensure that ENRTF funds are used for their constitutionally intended purpose. These voter-approved funds are already in hand, and do not affect the state’s budget. In fact, there couldn’t be a better time to make these investments, as Minnesotans are turning to the outdoors in droves during the pandemic.
That means we’re calling on legislators to pass two different pieces of legislation:
- The 2020 ENRTF bill: More than $60 million in trust fund money is available for projects already vetted and recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources, including the funding FMR needs to continue our urban pollinator habitat projects at three metro sites: River Heights Park (Inver Grove Heights), Mississippi River Gorge Regional Park (Minneapolis) and Ole Olson Park (Minneapolis). We're asking legislators to reverse last year's inaction by quickly passing a clean 2020 ENRTF bill to fund those projects and put people to work immediately.
- The 2021 ENRTF bill: We also need to pass this year’s ENRTF funding package, which includes support for FMR's restoration project at Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary in St. Paul, as well as Applewood Park and Carver Preserve in Maplewood. We again urge legislators to stick with the commission's recommendations and not add in any objectionable (or lawsuit-worthy) substitutions.
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Keep up to date
We write regular updates about key environment and water quality issues on our Water and Legislative Updates blog, and share them on social media (Facebook and Twitter) and in our twice-monthly e-newsletter, Mississippi Messages.