Perham's Enger on history-making outdoors panel
East Otter Tail County has the distinction of sending "one of its own" to a historic new panel that will control the purse strings on nearly $100 million a year.
Deer hunter, duck hunter and Farm Service Agency director Wayne Enger is from Perham--but when he sits on the new Outdoor Heritage Fund Council, he'll be an outdoorsman and a Minnesotan first.
"A lot of people tell me it's great that our area is represented, and it is, but I can't show favoritism," said Enger. "Our goal is to make recommendations that are good for all of Minnesota."
The council will recommend to the Minnesota Legislature appropriations from the Outdoor Heritage Fund, created when Minnesota voters on Nov. 4 approved the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment.
Many consider the Legacy initiative as a complete transformation of the way conservation is practiced in Minnesota.
"There was a consensus of the group that we totally understand that this money is a gift from the citizens of Minnesota," said Enger, who attended the first council meeting Dec. 1 in St. Paul. "So, we had better do a darn good job in spending it wisely."
That amendment increased the state sales tax by three-eighths percent, approximately one-third of which is dedicated to the Outdoor Heritage Fund.
Gov. Tim Pawlenty made his four citizen appointments to the council, which will advise the legislature on spending of the game and fish habitat portion of the funding bill.
The 12-member council, made up of eight citizens and four legislators, will recommend how to spend as much as $100 million a year.
Pawlenty's four appointments were: Jim Cox, Scott Rall, Bob Schroeder and Enger.
Interested in the new council, Enger filled out an application, and was expecting a more involved selection and interview process before appointments were made.
"I was assuming they were going to interview me, but they said 'you don't have to interview-- you're on,'" laughed Enger.
Enger is the Otter Tail County director of the Farm Service Agency, where he has worked the past 26 years as a U.S. Department of Agriculture employee. He is a former president of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association and former member of Minnesota Bowhunters, Inc., DU, and Future Farmers of America. He also served in the past on the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund Advisory Task Force. His term expires Jan. 7, 2013.
Enger estimates that he spends 90 to 100 days per year hunting. "And there probably isn't a day that goes by that I'm not in the outdoors somehow," he added.
The members of the Heritage Council are all volunteers, and are paid mileage and a meeting per diem of $55. Enger figures at least half of his vacation time from work will be applied to his obligations with the council--at least for the first year.
The Lessard Outdoor Heritage Council, named after long-time State Senator Bob Lessard, is charged with recommending appropriations from the Outdoor Heritage Fund to restore, protect and enhance wetlands, prairies, forests and habitat for game, fish and wildlife.
It has been predicted that the fund will reach approximately $80 million in fiscal year 2010 and $91 million in 2011.
The new Minnesota sales tax will be in force Jan. 1, and is expected to raise about $270 million annually, about a third of which will be spent on fish and wildlife habitat, which is the panel Enger serves on.
Another third is earmarked for cleanup of the state's lakes and rivers, and preservation of its aquifers.
The remaining third will be split among the arts (about 20 percent of the total) and parks and trails.
For Otter Tail outdoors enthusiasts, these are the good old days, says Enger
"People look outdoors and at the game population, and they yearn for the good old days," said Wayne Enger, new appointee to the Heritage Council, "but in many respects, these are the good old days."
"In our area, especially, you can step outside the back door and be close to nature," said Enger.
In his new role, he will have an impact on how state dollars will be spent on fish and game habitat throughout the state.
"It is a real honor to be part of this. It is a brand new adventure for me," said Enger, a St. James native and graduate of the Brainerd Community College and St. Cloud State University. He has worked with the Perham Farm Service Agency for the past 26 years.
"It is so important to have these dollars available for conservation, and I'm pleased the voters stepped up to the plate and got this passed," said Enger of the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment.
The panel will review grant applications, and pass on recommendations to the legislature on funding of natural resource projects. The tax collection will begin July 1, 2009, and about $40 million is expected to be generated by the end of 2009.
"If all goes well, we will have a lot of money to invest in natural resources," said Enger.
Information on the new Heritage Council can be found at this new website: www.lohc.state.mn.us.