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Can Legacy funds be used to fight aquatic invasive species?

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The council that recommends how the state should spend Legacy Fund money is criticizing a plan to handle invasive species that it created for being too vague and possibly violating the intent of the constitutional amendment.

MPR News reports that the Lessard Sams Outdoor Heritage Council on Thursday sent the project back for more work and will again consider the plan at its December meeting.

The $3.6 million dollar proposal aims to figure out the best way to spend Legacy money to help fight against invasive species in Minnesota's lakes and rivers. The plan was created by the council after members rejected other aquatic invasive species projects proposed by the Minnesota Coalition of Lake Associations and the Minnehaha Creek Watershed.

If approved in December, the program would be managed by the Initiative Foundation. The foundation's vice president for community and economic development, Don Hickman agreed to come back to the council with more details, but that might not be the only challenge.

The Legacy Amendment states that Outdoor Heritage Fund money must be used to "preserve, restore and enhance" habitat.

Council member Jane Kingston told MPR, "I don't think there are projects that meet the constitutional amendment. That's why we haven't provided funding to date."

Kingston added that they are concerned about aquatic invasive species, but she doesn't believe their structure provides for that sort of activity.

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources officials have said they support the proposal, but the DNR has generally agreed that the Legacy outdoors money can't be used to fight aquatic invasive species.

The DNR has $8.5 million in its budget to use in the fight against aquatic invasive species. That has not been able to do enough for lake associations, who are growing frustrated by the lack of progress in fighting them.

Even if the council approves the proposal, the state Legislature has the final say on how Legacy funds are distributed.

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