Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund (ENRTF)
The Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund was established following voter approval of a state constitutional amendment in 1988.
The fund, generated by the Minnesota State Lottery and investment income, is for protection, conservation, preservation, and enhancement of the state's air, water, land, fish, wildlife and other natural resources.
The Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources, developed from a program initiated in 1963, makes funding recommendations to the legislature for special environment and natural resource projects, primarily from the ENRTF. The commission is composed of state senators, state representatives, and citizens appointed by the governor, the Senate and the House of Representatives. Since 1991, the fund has provided about $500 million to about 1,000 projects around the state.
The County received funds to develop the Farmland and Natural Area Protection Plan, a follow-up grant to develop the initial FNAP guidelines, and a grant to develop the Vermillion River Corridor Plan. To date, $1,541,807 of funds have assisted the County in reaching its land conservation planning and land protection goals. See a list of projects.
Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program/Agricultural Land Easement Program
For many decades, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), provided farmers, ranchers and forest landowners with financial incentives and technical assistance to voluntarily put wetlands, agricultural lands, grasslands and forests into long-term protection through easements and other conservation practices.
The NRCS also managed the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP) that provided 50 percent matching funds to cooperating entities to acquire permanent agricultural conservation easements on eligible lands, to keep productive farm and ranch land in agricultural use.
While developing the Farmland and Natural Area Protection Plan, the County worked with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture to develop a statewide farmland protection plan. This state plan allowed the County to be eligible for FRPP funding.
The 2014 federal Farm Bill repealed the FRPP, and created a new Agricultural Land Easement (ALE) program that changed several evaluation criteria and the funding formula, which became less aligned with County land conservation goals. A total of $12.6 million of FRPP funds were used, in part, to acquire 68 agricultural easements between 2005 and 2015, with an additional $242,000 of ALE funds to help acquire two agricultural easements in 2015. The County provided $10 million and significant staff time to complete these projects; and landowners donated $4.9 million in easement value. Recent changes to the parameters of this federal funding may provide renewed land protection partnership options in the future. See a list of projects.
Outdoor Heritage Fund (OHF)
Minnesota voters approved the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Constitutional Amendment in 2008. This amendment allocates three-eighths of one percent of state sales tax, for four different funds, for 35 years: Habitat, Clean Water, Parks and Trails, and Arts and Culture.
The Outdoor Heritage Fund (OHF) receives 33 percent of these sales taxes and is dedicated to restoration, protection and enhancement of wetlands, prairies, forests, and habitat for fish, game, and other wildlife, and to prevent forest fragmentation, encourage forest consolidation, and expand restored native prairie.
The Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council (LSOHC) was established by the legislature to provide annual funding recommendations to the legislature for use of the OHF. The LSOHC is composed of two state senators, two state representatives, two citizens appointed by the Senate, two citizens appointed by the House of Representatives, and four citizens appointed by the governor.
As of March 2018, the County has received $6,869,970 of OHF and provided $1,721,571 of its own funds to protect 1,162 acres. As of March 2018, an additional $132,100 in OHF was combined with $77,545 of County funds to restore/enhance 215 acres of habitat. These figures do not reflect $1.9 million of landowner donations and other additional costs, such as some title search and closing costs, some years of County staff time, certain easement document preparation costs, and ongoing monitoring and management costs. The County recently received the LSOHC-recommended $2.288 million of additional OHF for land protection and restoration, approved during the 2018 legislative session. The County submitted a 2019 OHF funding request in May 2018. See a list of projects.