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No blaze pink, but lead ammo ban is a go

Blaze pink is dead. Minnesota's lead-ammo ban and muskie stocking plans are alive. A wholesale makeover of northern pike fishing regulations is on the slow track. And a plan to expand the elk herd has been dealt a major setback.

Those are among the biggest upshots for outdoors enthusiasts in the aftermath of the Minnesota legislative session, which adjourned this week with arguably more left undone than done.

Among things left undone: a so-called "game and fish bill." That's a package of fishing and hunting policy initiatives. It's usually an annual affair that passes with bipartisan support after lawmakers compromise on its most controversial aspects. The House and Senate failed to reconcile their differences to stymie Department of Natural Resources plans to restrict lead ammunition and expand muskie stocking. Gov. Mark Dayton has no game and fish bill to act on.

The resulting status quo — the DNR can now move forward with the lead ammo restriction and the muskie stocking expansion — is a victory for the agency. But the DNR is the loser on its long-term plan to revamp northern pike regulations, which has widespread support and would have moved along a fast track had the game and fish bill passed.

DNR Assistant Commissioner Bob Meier, the agency's lead lobbyist at the Capitol, said he's satisfied with the result. "Northern pike would have been nice, but is it worth the Legislature usurping our authority on regulating ammunition on state lands or stocking fish? Probably not."

In addition to the items listed below, other initiatives that failed during the legislative session include Dayton's hopes for increased penalties for poachers and a push by some hunters to allow night-vision goggles to be used while hunting coyotes.

Blaze pink

What: A plan to allow fluorescent pink to be worn by hunters in addition to blaze orange failed to pass.

So what? Fluorescent pink has become a hot trend for hunters, particularly women and girls. The color is highly visible and according to studies can catch the human eye better than blaze orange, the standard — and required in many states — color for hunters to wear for safety so they see each other. A number of states, including Wisconsin, have legalized blaze pink for hunting. However, some shades of fluorescent pink can't be seen by people with some forms of color blindness, and Minnesota's proposal didn't contain a technical definition of the color.

Now what? Blaze orange remains the law of the land for hunter safety, and blaze pink is merely a fashion statement.

Lead ammo ban

What: The Department of Natural Resources can move forward with its plan to ban certain lead hunting ammunition from 400,000 acres of state lands in the farming portion of the state. An attempt by a number of lawmakers to stymie the DNR's efforts failed.

So what? With overtones of gun control, this controversy split the hunting community and has forced groups like Pheasants Forever to side with the NRA against groups like the Audubon Society. Lead is toxic, and spent lead ammunition kills wildlife, studies have shown. However, no scientific studies have concluded that such deaths have a population-level effect on any wildlife. Lead has been banned continent-wide for waterfowl hunting for decades, but that ban — supported by many duck hunters — followed documentation of widespread bird die-offs from lead poisoning.

Now what? The DNR's proposed restriction of fine shot, which would most directly affect pheasant hunters but not deer hunters, still needs to move through the state's bureaucratic rulemaking process. It could take effect as soon as the fall 2018 hunting season.

The Pioneer Press is a Forum News Service media partner.

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