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Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council to host planning, public input meetings around state

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Minnesotans voted last November to increase their sales tax by three-eighths of one percent effective July 1. One-third of the funding from that Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment goes to the Outdoor Heritage Fund that is dedicated to restore, protect, and enhance wetlands, prairies, forests, and habitat for fish, game, and wildlife.

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The Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council, which is charged with annually making OHF funding recommendations to the Legislature, has scheduled planning meetings during the first two weeks in August. During each of these five planning meetings, about 20 invited conservation professionals, such as field scientists, will identify goals and objectives for the ecological section in which the meeting is being held. Those conservation professionals will represent expertise about the environmental issues of that section.

The general public is invited to observe the process and then participate in a comment period of at least one hour that will follow each meeting.

The meetings will be in:

• New Ulm for the Prairie Section on Tuesday, Aug. 4, at the New Ulm Holiday Inn, 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m. for the conservation professionals meeting, 4:30-:30 p.m. for the public input meeting.

• St. Paul for the Metropolitan -- Urbanizing Area Section on Thursday, Aug. 6, Minnesota State Retirement Systems Building, 60 Empire Dr., 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m. for conservation professionals, 3:30-4:30 p.m. for the public input meeting.

• Rochester for the Southeast Forest Section on Friday, Aug. 7, University Center Rochester, Atrium 103, 851 30th Ave. SE, 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m. for conservation professionals, 4:30-5:30 p.m. for the public input meeting.

• Grand Rapids for the Northern Forest Section on Tuesday, Aug. 11, at the Minnesota Forest History Center, 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m. for conservation professionals, 4:30-5:30 p.m. for the public input meeting.

• Detroit Lakes for the Forest/Prairie Transition Section on Monday, Aug. 17, at the Holiday Inn on the Lake (formerly Clubhouse Hotel), 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m. for conservation professionals, 4:30-5:30 p.m. for the public input meeting.

These August planning meetings are not for the purpose of proposing or discussing specific OHF funding requests. That will begin in October. These August meetings will, however, provide guidance to those who want to apply for funding. They will also provide the public with an opportunity to offer input, which will be summarized in a written document for L-SOHC review.

The L-SOHC also invites the public to provide written comments and suggestions on the draft goals for each section. The plan can be viewed at the Councils web site. Comments can be submitted via e-mail, mail or fax, with addresses provided on the L-SOHC Web site at www.lohc.state.mn.us for two weeks after the last meeting.

The L-SOHC will meet in September to review the public input, discuss the goals and objectives from each planning meeting, and seek majority approval.

More information about the L-SOHC and a map of the ecological sections are available at www.lohc.state.mn.us.

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