Who are the MN DNR's primary clients? Sources of funds in the MN DNR budget.

Post date: Feb 20, 2014 8:10:08 PM

This blog entry was inspired by an email message that was sent by the Wildlife Section Chief of the Minnesota Department of Resources (MN DNR) to MN DNR staff in the Spring of 2012--leading up the Minnesota's first recreational wolf hunting & trapping season. The message was found and published by a wildlife advocacy organization opposed to the hunt (Howling for Wolves 2012; Meador 2012). It's quoted as follows: "... we owe it to our primary clients, hunters and trappers, and to livestock producers as secondary clients, to do what we can to establish a legitimate harvest opportunity now that the wolf is under our management authority."

Obviously, wildlife advocates were left off the lists of "primary clients" and "secondary clients," and in fact weren't listed as clients, at all. That's not right: wildlife are in the Public Trust, and one of the main purposes of the MN DNR is to honor that. The People of Minnesota are the primary clients of the MN DNR.

How can the MN DNR ignore the majority of the People of Minnesota? Some would say because the MN DNR is funded by fishing & hunting license fees (SS-Slocum 2014). Let's examine that claim, and the subsequent claims that are made based upon it, that sportsmen "pay to play" and are therefore entitled to special treatment from the MN DNR.

In the pie chart below, we see that the primary financial supporters of the MN DNR are people who buy the following things:

  • Fuel for recreational vehicles.
    • Apparently represented in an unspecified portion of the largest, dark-blue slice of the pie.
    • Labeled "Transfers In: gas tax."
  • Fishing equipment and boats.
    • Apparently represented in an unspecified portion of the largest, dark-blue slice of the pie.
    • From the U.S. Sport Fish Restoration Act ("Dingell-Johnson or D-J funds").
    • Including all uses, e.g. boats used for activities other than fishing.
  • Firearms, ammunition, and archery equipment.
    • Apparently represented in an unspecified portion of the largest, dark-blue slice of the pie.
    • From the U.S. Wildlife Restoration Act ("Pittman-Robertson or P-R funds").
    • Including all uses, e.g. personal defense, youth target-shooting and trap-shooting programs, etc.
  • Fishing, boating, and hunting licenses and boat registrations.
    • In the dark red slice of the pie, labeled "license and registration."
    • Including all uses, e.g. boats and trailers used for activities other than fishing.
  • Lottery tickets.
    • In the dark green slice of the pie, labeled "lottery in lieu."
  • State Park entry, camping, and rental fees.
    • In the purple slice of the pie, labeled "State Park Fees."

Note: the D-J and P-R funding does not come only from hunters and fishermen; it comes from from anyone who buys the equipment.

MN DNR FY2012 Sources of Income

Figure 1: MN DNR FY2012 Sources of Income.

Some things seem to be missing from this pie chart:

  • Sales-tax revenues through the the Clean Water, Land and Legacy amendment (with appropriations that are made through the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council (LSOHC)). FY 2015 appropriations through the MN Outdoor Heritage Fund (one-third of the legacy-amendment funds) totaled more than $109 million, as detailed in the bill MN 2014 HF 1926.
  • FY 2015 appropriations through another one-third of the legacy-amendment funds, the Clean Water Fund.
  • FY 2015 appropriations through another 14% of the legacy-amendment funds, the Parks and Trails Fund.
  • Legislative bonding for specific projects; for example $5.8 million proposed (not sure if this ended up in one of the omnibus spending bills) for acquisition of Scientific & Natural Areas (SNAs) in the bill MN 2014 HF 3286.
  • Appropriations from general-funds; for example, including $3.4 million (plus other large items not totaled here) to the U of MN Invasive Terrestrial Plants and Pests Center through the supplemental budget bill MN 2014 HF 3172.

The pie chart was published by the MN DNR to show its total sources of revenue for Fiscal Year 2012 (for all funds). It wasn't easy to find (it was found on p. 8 of the FY2012 Annual Report of the MN DNR Natural Resources Fund--but the chart isn't about that fund). That might be an indication of how little interest the MN DNR has in furthering your understanding of where its funding comes from.

Most MN DNR discussions on wildlife-management policy are dominated by sportsmen. Why? Because they're the "primary constituents" of the MN DNR? Doesn't look like it in the pie chart. The MN DNR should be involving people from every walk of life in the design and implementation of wildlife-management policy.

This blog entry does not attempt to answer the question "who are the major financial supporters of wildlife, habitat, land and water conservation?" That's a different question, because 1) many other organizations, individuals, and governments contribute to that, and 2) a lot of the funds that are spent by the MN DNR are not spent on conservation. For example, a quick scan of the supplemental budget bill MN 2014 HF 3172 showed considerable spending on shooting sports, including $2 million in 2015 "from the game and fish fund for shooting sports facility grants." Although it could be argued that this spending is good for hunter recruitment & retention, and then argued that hunting is good for conservation, it could also be said that it shows a tendency for spending on behalf of the sportsmen--rather than on conservation--from sportsmen's license and registration fees. That bigger question has been addressed elsewhere (Smith and Molde 2014; Jordan 2014).


Howling for Wolves. 2012. "DNR – What Happened behind Closed Doors?" Howling for Wolves. July 30.


Jordan, Larry. 2014. The North American Model of Wildlife Conservation and Who Pays for It. Ten-Thousand Birds. December 17.


Meador, Ron. 2012. “Court Ruling in Wolf Lawsuit Gives DNR Rulemaking a Limited License at Best.” MinnPost. October 11. https://www.minnpost.com/earth-journal/2012/10/court-ruling-wolf-lawsuit-gives-dnr-rulemaking-limited-license-best

Smith, Mark E., and Donald A. Molde. 2014. Wildlife Conservation & Management Funding in the U.S.. Nevadans for Responsible Wildlife Management.


SS-Slocum. 2014. Compassionate Conservation (from Medwid to Perich to here).