“In this legislative session, we want to see some action. It’s more important than any stadium they could ever build in this state.”
March 23, 2006*
Bud Grant is not only a former football coach of the Minnesota Vikings, but to many Minnesotans he is embodiment of the Minnesota spirit: the will to succeed despite our cold climate and do it with a gritty determination. Those of my generation grew up with an image of Bud Grant standing stoically on the football sideline with a gray-haired flattop, a countenance chiseled out of granite, and a whiff of breath hovering in the cold air; all while his purple giants stood at attention in the background. He was nothing like the flapping and screaming professional football coaches of today. He always kept his cool. He could always say volumes with just a few words and steely glint in his eye.
Though he has come to embody the stoic Minnesota spirit, Grant actually grew up just across the border in Superior, Wisconsin. As a young boy, if he wasn’t playing pick up games with his neighbors he would be haunting the outskirts of Superior for rabbits and squirrels. After graduating from high school in 1945 he became a standout athlete at the University of Minnesota in multiple sports. He went on to a career in professional football as a player and coach in both the Canadian Football League and the NFL.
Through all of his life his first love has always been hunting and fishing in our great outdoors. He was known to get up early prior to practice or even a game on Sunday to get in a little duck hunting. So when Minnesota’s financial commitment to preserving our natural resources started to dissipate after 2002, Grant took action by supporting the efforts known as the “Duck Rally” in 2006. The above quote is from that rally which was a gathering of sportsmen, conservation enthusiasts and environmentalists who called for the state to recommit to protecting our natural resources. His speech was typically short and to the point but one of the most effective of the day. This effort laid the groundwork for the passage of the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment in 2008.
This week the legendary coach reappeared on the cold and divided field of politics once again to make a difference for conservation in Minnesota. Coach Grant testified in front of the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday to lend his support for a fee increase in the license for hunting and fishing. These fees are dedicated to critical enforcement and conservation efforts through the Game and Fish Fund. This fund will soon be in deficit in part because a license fees have not been increased in over a decade.
In this political season it takes real courage for a legislator to step forward and push for fee increase. This is even more true in the Tea Party dominated endorsing conventions for several Republicans. Therefore, the conservation community owes a debt of gratitude to four legislators who had the courage to get into the game for this effort: Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen (R-Alexandria), Rep. Rick Hansen (DFL-South St. Paul), Rep. Tom Hackbarth (R-Cedar), and Rep. Denny McNamara (R-Hastings). They are joined by over 60 conservation, environment and sportsmen’s organizations ranging from the Sierra Club to Pheasants Forever.
There’s a good reason for this broad support. The approximately $14 million that the new fees would raise would stabilize the Game and Fish Fund. These are critical investments to preserve one of Minnesota’s biggest economic engines in outdoor recreation. These activities fuel $3.6 billion in economic activity in our state annually. These investments also have a collateral benefit for other outdoor activities in our lakes, rivers and wild places that further boost our state’s economy.
Given the contentious nature of this session, preserving investments from the Game and Fish Fund will be like one of those many epic battles the men in purple fought at Met Stadium for Coach Grant and their Minnesota fans. It’s interesting to note that early on in his testimony on Tuesday Coach Grant reaffirmed his 2006 statement quoted above by saying that this fee increase to preserve the integrity of the Game and Fish Fund was far more important for Minnesota’s future than the Vikings Stadium. It’s time to get behind Coach Grant and the courageous legislative leaders pushing forward this proposal by contacting your local legislators and urge them to support this critical investment.
*”Open water has returned once again”, Schultz, Chris. Herald Journal. March 23, 2006.