Lessard: ‘I’ve never seen … such an anti-sportsmen Legislature’

Bob Lessard on a veterans' hunting outing at Camp Ripley in 2011. (Brian Peterson photo)

Plymouth, Minn. — Bob Lessard, the former state senator for whom the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council is partially named, is not a fan of the Legacy bill unanimously passed by the House last week.

While the bill includes spending from the Outdoor Heritage and other funds that were wrapped into the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment that voters approved in 2008, it veers from the Council’s recommendations and also includes a clause that would allow counties to file no-net gain of public lands with the DNR.

“I’ve never seen – and I’ve been around a long time ­– such an anti-sportsmen Legislature,” said Lessard, who said he was speaking for himself, not in his salaried role as special assistant to the DNR commissioner.

Lessard, 85, said he wanted to make it clear with his strong statement that he still believes there are some legislators that represent sportsmen well.

But it would be a major understatement, in the least, to say he is disheartened with what he considers an attack on the Legacy Amendment, which nearly a decade ago was approved by voters, via referendum, and brought a three-eighths of a percent increase to the state sales tax.

“I am not speaking with my DNR hat on right now,” he said, before recalling his decision to run for public office back in the 1970s. “I never felt like we had enough of a voice. At this point, my days are numbered. Those of us with a passion for hunting and fishing, we go to our banquets, we raffle off our guns, have silent auctions pass our resolutions – all good things – but then we go home and think logic will prevail in the legislative process.”

It took a coalescence of different groups, including different sportsmen’s groups, to get the amendment passed. Lessard said that the fire, so important to the amendment’s passage, needs to be stoked again.

“Those of us with this passion for hunting and fishing, we don’t let our voices be heard,” he said. “We sit back and think that logic will prevail. There will come a day when I won’t be here to do this anymore. I have done my best. I am tired. I am old. I will still keep working at this, but it has to come from sportsmen.”

Read an extended version of this story in this week’s Minnesota Outdoor News, which hits newsstands on Friday.

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