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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Shane Mekeland (R)

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This week's news from St. Paul

Friday, March 8, 2019

Dear Neighbor,

Happy Friday as we get to the end of another week in the 2019 legislative session. Before I get to this week’s news from the Capitol, I want to congratulate to Rick and Marlene Schlichting and family for recently receiving national recognition for their conservation efforts on Schlichting Farms near Rice.

The National Corn Growers Association presented the Schlichtings with its 2019 Good Steward Recognition at the Commodity Classic in Orlando. Here are some highlights of a press release from the NCGA:

“In addition to state-of-the art best management practices, the Schlichtings are involved in prairie restoration, native tree planting, wildlife food plots and growing rye which is used to plant cover crops in many of their fields.

They believe the best way to ensure the farm remains productive into the future is to use a hands-on approach of testing new management techniques and technologies in the field while relying heavily on using the best technical experts and assistance available.”

Congrats again to the Schlichtings. You can click here to read more details of the award the family received and see a video featuring Schlichting Farms.

In St. Paul this week, I authored a bill (H.F. 2007) to make certain that sections of Sand Dunes State Forest in Orrock Township will not be clear-cut prior to 2035.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ forest management tactics have been a source of contention for years among Orrock residents, especially regarding plans for clear-cutting 3,000 acres of trees and changing the plot to an oak savanna.

The DNR has verbally backed off the clear-cutting project at Sand Dunes and my legislation would put that commitment in writing. The bill specifically states that, as the DNR manages Sand Dunes, “Forest stands must consist of multiple ages and multiple species to maximize forest health and resiliency.”

On one hand, the DNR has said it wants to return the land to what it was in the 1850s, with grasslands and oak trees. Then again, U of M ecologist Lee Frelich has said climate change will shift the forest-prairie border near St. Cloud 300 miles north by 2100. Why would we want to cut down pine stands and replace them with oaks and grasslands now, accelerating that process? The good thing is DNR representatives have told me they currently do not plan on clear-cutting 3,000-acres at Sand Dunes. I say that’s nice to hear and let’s put it in writing.

I am now waiting for a hearing and will keep you posted.

One of the biggest news items from the floor this week is that the House approved a bill which spends $13 million more on our state’s broken driver’s license and registration system, yet fails to deliver relief to local DMV operators for damages they have suffered due to the state’s own failures on this project. The state has botched this program every step of the way and there is no guarantee another $13 million will help. In fact, if/when this proves to be ineffective, it appears the next step will be to turn this over to a private vendor – something than should have been done long ago.

It goes without saying that I voted against this bill, which Democrats passed on a party-line vote.

Until next time, have a good weekend and please be careful if the forecast for heavy, wet snow proves to happen. This could be the kind of stuff they call “heart attack snow” so be careful to not overdo it shoveling. Might be a good time to lend a hand to anyone in need of assistance, especially older friends and family.