- Associated Press - Thursday, April 2, 2015

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Officials with the Department of Natural Resources touted Gov. Mark Dayton’s proposal for their agency Thursday as a way to boost funding for fish, wildlife and outdoors programs, including more officers to enforce game and fish regulations.

The agency’s goals for the proposed increased spending include improving fish population surveys, creating more forest wildlife habitat, helping landowners improve grassland and prairie habitat, improving the monitoring and management of wildlife populations and creating more opportunities to help kids and families get outside.

The DNR’s enforcement chief, Col. Ken Soring, said the budget includes money to fill 11 out of 22 vacant conservation officer positions statewide.

Fish and Wildlife chief Ed Boggess said the money would come mostly from the state’s game and fish fund, which is funded by fishing and hunting license fees.

The two-year budget proposes an extra $5.4 million above current levels for the first fiscal year and $5.1 million more for the second. But the state would get $6.1 million back as reimbursement from the federal excise tax on outdoor gear - such as firearms and ammunition - that’s available for qualifying state programs, for a net cost of $4.4 million. None of the money would come from the state’s general fund.

Soring said the DNR is getting support from legislators and outdoor groups for filling the vacant enforcement positions.

Boggess said there otherwise hasn’t been much direct response from lawmakers yet. The GOP-controlled House and DFL-controlled Senate are still crafting their budget bills.

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