March 5, 2010
|Representative Michael Beard||Senator Joe Gimse|
|Representative Rick Hansen||Senator David Hann|
|Representative Bill Hilty||Senator Ann H. Rest|
|Representative Mary Liz Holberg||Senator Claire Robling|
|Representative Ron Shimanski|
|Representative Steve Simon||Senator Don Betzold|
|Senator James Metzen|
Other Members Present:Representative Denise Dittrich
Senator Ann Rest, Chair, called the Legislative Audit Commission (LAC) meeting to order at 10:08 a.m. Senator Rest said that the purpose of the meeting was to release the evaluation, Natural Resource Land.
Senator Rest introduced Jim Nobles, Legislative Auditor. Mr. Nobles explained that the LAC authorized the OLA to conduct an evaluation on the Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) management of the states’ natural resource land and conservation easements. Mr. Nobles also made it very clear that the evaluation does not reflect specific opinions of any member of the LAC. Mr. Nobles introduced John Yunker, Evaluation Manager for Natural Resource Land, to give the details of the evaluation. Mr. Yunker said that state-owned natural resource land makes up about one-sixth of the state, or 8.4 million acres. Of this total land, about two-thirds are administered by DNR, while the remainder is administered by counties. Some of the findings Mr. Yunker highlighted were 1) DNR needs to do more work evaluating its land holdings; 2) DNR should continue developing a comprehensive easement management program; 3) DNR appears to lack adequate resources to manage and maintain its land assets; and 4) the adequacy of the state’s payments in lieu of taxes (PILT) is difficult to assess, but most counties receive more than is necessary to offset lost property tax revenue for acquired nonhunting land.
Senator Rest welcomed DNR commissioner Mark Holsten to the table. She then turned the gavel over to Representative Beard. Mr. Holsten said the evaluation is a validation of the goals the department is currently in the process of correcting or improving. However, he expressed his concern that the evaluation only looked at a very small portion of a large and complex management system of what DNR actually oversees. Marty Vadis, Director of DNR Lands and Minerals Division, was welcomed to the table. Mr. Vadis explained that the DNR has a web site which lists the state land that is up for sale and the public auctions. He said the next sale would be on June 23rd in Grand Rapids and on June 24th the St. Paul office would have an auction. Mr. Vadis explained that each year the DNR acquires between 90 and 140 individual parcels of land; last year DNR acquired 115 parcels which amounted to $21 million. Representative Beard invited John Jaschke, Executive Director of the Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) to the table to explain how BWSR manages the conservation easements they oversee. Mr. Jaschke said that the BWSR conservation easement program is prescribed in statute and has its own set of state rules and they have policies that have been adopted. He also said that BWSR has a restoration program that allows them to purchase marginal agricultural land and perpetual easements for the purpose of restoring a wetland. He said that BWSR also has a web site tool where the public can go in and locate properties with BWSR easements.
With no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 11:50 a.m.
Senator Ann H. Rest, Chair
Shelly Watterud, Recording Secretary