5 years later, taking stock of Legacy fund

Minnesota state agencies are marking the fifth anniversary this week of the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment.

Voters approved the Legacy Amendment in 2008 after a coalition of groups campaigned hard for it. The three-eighths cent sales tax has generated more than $1 billion for projects like prairie restoration, water monitoring in lakes and theatrical performances.

The constitutional amendment remains in effect for another 20 years, so the state agencies that oversee the two biggest chunks of the Legacy fund -- clean water and outdoors -- say it will take time before Minnesotans see the cumulative impact of their tax dollars.

This week the Department of Natural Resources, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the state Board of Water and Soil Resources are highlighting several projects that have received money. That includes a newly renovated visitor center at Jay Cooke State Park near Duluth and cleaning up Stubbs Bay on Lake Minnetonka. (Minnesota Public Radio also receives Legacy Amendment funding for arts and cultural programming.)

The amendment is a testament to how much Minnesotans care about their legacy, said Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr.

"At the pinnacle of the mortgage crisis, at the pit of the financial crisis when the whole world seemed to be melting, Minnesotans voted to tax themselves additionally for conservation purposes, and we really are benefiting by that," he said.

Landwehr spoke about the Legacy Amendment during a visit to Minnesota this week by U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. Both officials say state and federal budget cuts have threatened conservation efforts.

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