The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is embarking on a transformational effort, in collaboration with Minnesotans, to identify a new funding framework for outdoor recreation and conservation. The goal is to ensure the DNR can serve new, returning, and long-time outdoor enthusiasts, and sustainably manage the state’s natural resources for generations to come.
“Minnesota’s high quality, diverse, and abundant outdoor spaces and opportunities are available today because the state made significant investments in the past. Unfortunately, those same foundational investments are not being made today,” said DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen. “I am excited and encouraged as we undertake this critical effort to ensure that conservation and outdoor recreation are adequately and sustainably funded. With the help of Minnesotans, we have the opportunity to co-create a vision for the future we want for generations to come.”
Minnesota’s current outdoor funding model faces several challenges. For example, user fees do not keep pace with inflation, which makes it challenging for the DNR to appropriately steward resources and provide open and affordable access to the outdoors. Additionally, while Minnesotans have demonstrated support for the environment and outdoors through the constitutionally dedicated Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund and Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment, these funds are targeted to specific uses and not available to support some key aspects of natural resource management and outdoor recreation.
“More Minnesotans than ever recognize the physical and mental health benefits of being in nature,” said Erika Rivers, DNR director of parks and trails. “The increased use and appreciation of public lands throughout the pandemic has demonstrated the need for a new funding framework that will ensure those experiences are equitable and available to all Minnesotans—now and in the future.”
The current phase of the future funding project will focus on idea generation and public engagement to identify a future vision for outdoor recreation and conservation and possible funding solutions. In addition to engaging with the public, the DNR will work with key advisors and DNR staff. By the second half of 2022, this collective effort will produce an actionable funding framework that is reflective of research, best practices, and diverse public input.
“Minnesotans’ perspectives on this framework will be critical—we want to hear from new and long-time outdoor enthusiasts, as well as those who have felt unwelcome or left out,” said Dave Olfelt, DNR fish and wildlife director. “High-quality natural resources and access to outdoor recreation opportunities are central to our quality of life in Minnesota. Conservation and outdoor recreation funding need a collaborative approach that includes the spectrum of ways people engage with the outdoors.”
Current public engagement opportunities are available on the DNR’s online engagement page. The public is invited to stay informed about future opportunities and receive updates by signing up for the project’s email list.