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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Tax dollars shouldn’t be used to outbid private buyers

I commend the Meeker County Commissioners who pushed back on the sale of private land to the state, as chronicled in a recent Bemidji Pioneer article (Dec. 29, Minnesota county takes on public lands debate over farm sale).

Meeker County is now experiencing what northern Minnesota has been dealing with for some time. Meeker Commissioners Mike Housman and Bryan Larson showed their understanding of the seriousness of where Minnesota is heading.

The amount of land owned by the government is increasing yearly. In 2008, the DNR controlled 12 percent of all land in the state. In 2017, it had increased to 17 percent. The federal government has about 8 percent and 4 percent is water – also controlled by the government. Add non-profits to the mix and nearly one-third of our state is no longer in private hands.

We are rapidly approaching a crisis in our great state. Statements from Pheasants Forever and Deer Hunters Association are concerning since they purchase land with the very purpose of turning it over to the DNR, a.k.a. the state. This is common practice. Much of the funding for these groups come from tax dollars. Their lobbyist are at the Capital on a regular basis.

The common argument from the left is to claim these are sales between a willing buyer and seller. But these are tax dollars. So the question is not whether people should be able to sell their land to whomever they want. Instead, the question is whether the DNR should continue to use tax dollars to outbid private buyers. Who can outbid the government?

I have authored bills to deal with this issue. One is “No Net Gain.” Counties would have the option to file a No Net Gain policy with the state. Once filed, the county would have the option to prevent additional sales within the county. This would protect the tax base and ensure the availability of private land sales.

Another bill of mine would allow counties to sell tax forfeited lands without DNR approval. It also prevents sales to tax-exempt entities.

If these are not passed to protect Minnesotans from overbearing agencies, I suggest putting the Legacy amendment back on the ballot. Now that we know how the nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars is being spent, we could give Minnesotans the option of turning the funding toward other priorities, such as roads and bridges.

Steve Green, Fosston, is District 2B representative in the Minnesota House.