Lawmakers voted 106 to 22 in favor of stripping the language that would allow the logging out of an environment budget bill. Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, proposed the language, which requires the commissioner of natural resources to assess the black walnut and other timber resources in the two state parks and harvest the trees that are suitable. The proceeds from the logging would go to the state.
Environmental groups launched a big push against the proposal arguing it would cause lasting harm to the state parks. The environment budget bill's author, GOP Rep. Denny McNamara of Hastings, sponsored the amendment to take out the logging language.
Drazkowski, whose district includes Whitewater State Park, urged his fellow lawmakers to support logging in the state parks.
"This is another area of state government where an asset of the government is actually rotting and going to waste. This is what Minnesotans are tired of. They are tired of the waste, fraud and abuse in government."
Rep. Tim Kelly, R-Red Wing, whose district includes Frontenac State Park, also supports allowing for logging in those state parks.
But several lawmakers, both DFL and GOP, voiced concerns about the proposal. Rep. Lyndon Carlson, R-Crystal, said he used to teach in St. Charles and spent a lot of time at Whitewater State Park.
"That’s a valley that is very sensitive and it is very sensitive to things like flooding and it is also a valley with a lot of history, and I would be very concerned if that was opened up for logging or cutting," Carlson said.
Here's how southeast Minnesota lawmakers voted on the amendment to strip out the logging language. Voting yes were: Rep. Tina Liebling, DFL-Rochester; Rep. Rich Murray, R-Albert Lea; Rep. Kim Norton, DFL-Rochester, Rep. Gene Pelowski, DFL-Winona and Rep. Jeanne Poppe, DFL-Austin. Voting no were: Rep. Mike Benson, R-Rochester; Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston; Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa; Rep. Tim Kelly, R-Red Wing; and Rep. Duane Quam, R-Byron.