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Howes elected to environmental leadership post

State Rep. Larry Howes, R-Walker, was elected to a leadership post with the commission that oversees spending State Lottery proceeds on the environment.

Howes was tabbed as co-vice chairman of the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources, he said Wednesday.

The panel makes funding recommendations to the Legislature for environment and natural resources, primarily distributing the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund.

"It is really important for our area to be represented on this commission and I am honored to serve as vice chair," the six-term Republican said in an e-mail message to constituents. "These positions allow me to work on behalf of the tourism/outdoors industry in our region."

Howes added that the new post "also ties in quite nicely to some other responsibilities I have at the Capitol, enhancing my work with the Cultural/Outdoors Resources Finance Division and as the minority lead on the Capitol Investment Committee."

While the Legislative-Citizens Commission on Minnesota Resources basically is funded through the State Lottery, the House Cultural/Outdoors Resources Finance Division provides oversight to the new outdoors sales tax that takes effect next week.

As of July 1, the state sales tax will be boosted to 6.875 percent, based on a constitutional ballot question last year to raise the sales tax from 6.5 percent for outdoors, clean water, cultural and heritage programs.

"People in our area have a full understanding of how important the outdoors and environment is, but sometimes the metro folks need to be reminded just how much it means to us," Howes said.

The Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund was created in 1988. Forty percent of the net proceeds from the Minnesota State Lottery, or about 7 cents of every dollar spent on playing the lottery, goes into the Trust Fund. The LCCMR makes project funding recommendations on an annual cycle for up to 5.5 percent of the existing value in the Trust Fund.

Money from the Trust Fund can only be used for the public purpose of protection, conservation, preservation, and enhancement of the state's air, water, land, fish, wildlife, and other natural resources, according to the LCCMR Web site.

The 2009 LCCMR recommendations were adopted by the Legislature on May 17 and the governor signed the bill May 22. A total of $25.7 million, primarily from Minnesota's Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund, has been appropriated to 63 individual projects around the state, Howes said. The LCCMR received 146 submissions with a total of $105.3 million for the 2009 proposal process.

"The outdoors is a major part of life around here and it is a major driver of our economy," Howes said in a statement announcing his election. "Recommendations from this commission can really have a positive impact on our area."

The LCCMR consists of 17 members, both legislators and citizens, including five citizens appointed by the governor. The LCCMR held executive committee elections Wednesday, but Howes did not say who won other posts.

Serving as chairman has been Sen. Jim Vickerman, DFL-Tracy.