Lottery proceeds have been used to build the principal of the Trust Fund. The Minnesota Constitution provides that up to 5.5 percent of the market value of the trust fund can be spent on environmental projects "for the public purpose of protection, conservation, preservation, and enhancement of the state's air, water, land, fish, wildlife, and other natural resources."
The DNR's spending from the Environmental Trust Fund is for a proposed set of projects recommended by the Legislative Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCMR). Some of these LCMR-recommended projects have been suggested by the DNR and are closely related to agency's programs and operations. Other projects were originally proposed by others--local units of government and non-profit organizations. In those cases the DNR will set up and oversee the contract with the outside organization, and reimburse approved project expenses as incurred under the contract terms.
The difference of $16.6 million is a reduction of 38.0% in the proposed budget from spending in the current two-year period.
Check the list of all LCMR-recommended projects (find the budget change item on LCMR-recommended projects, p. 116).