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STATE SENATOR DOUG JOHNSON'S ENVIRONMENTAL VIEWS are representative of members of the outspoken Iron Range legislative delegation. They tend to support outdoor recreation and oppose anything that smacks of government regulation. Most recently, Johnson has called for curtailing federal and state regulations affecting timber sales. He says low-cost Canadian timber is flooding the U.S. market, while excessive regulations keep U.S. lumber companies from competing.
Johnson: The issue is the U.S. government and the state government. the DNR has been kow-towing to certain fringe environmental groups. We saw what happened with the Little Alfie sale, and there have been more frivolous lawsuits.Johnson says the influx of Canadian timber means less work for Minnesota loggers and related businesses. Johnson says he and Congressman James Oberstar will collaborate to pinpoint federal and state regulations that should be eliminated to free up more forests for logging. Johnson and Oberstar have been allies on another long-running wilderness issue: reopening motorized portages in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Oberstar got federal legislation passed to allow motors on two portages in June. Johnson supported the legislation and says he became alarmed when the forest service indicated it will consider non-mechanized bids for transportation on those portages as well.
Johnson: That was like reinventing the wheel when clearly Congress, in their intent, was to allow motorized portages on those two sites - Prairie Portage to Basswood and Vermillion to Trout Lake. And so it just seems like they can't read or something, those bureaucrats, and I just want to make sure they enforce the law.
Johnson lives on Lake Vermillion and has worked in the past as a fishing guide - the bobbers on his campaign signs highlight his love of fishing and the outdoors. But there is no love lost between Johnson and the DNR. If elected, Johnson has vowed to replace DNR Commissioner Rod Sando and move the DNR offices into rural areas.
Johnson: I think the DNR has been wasting the money it gets from the legislature and the fees it charges for fishing, hunting, snowmobiling. Not enough money is going back into the field for facilities for those who want to enjoy the out-of-doors.Johnson said he wants to see more fish stocking and improvements made to deteriorating state parks. He says if elected he would also turn his attention to environmental problems like petroleum spills by the Koch Refinery and combating urban sprawl. But he says he has no desire to take on the issue of feedlot regulations. Johnson says those regulations should be developed at the local level, and he says that view sets him apart from the other DFL candidates.
Johnson: Many of them want state regulation - state mandates from St. Paul. Meanwhile, we have laws in place that allow local counties and townships to regulate feedlots. It's kind of a big brother approach: St. Paul knows best for rural Minnesota. I don't like that.Johnson says he doesn't believe local regulation of feedlots would be a conflict of interest for agricultural areas in Minnesota. He maintains the state can help most by providing financial assistance to farmers and leaving feedlot regulations to county and town boards. Johnson is happy to let feedlots serve as yet another example of both his faith in rural Minnesotans and his dislike of big government. Even the one he'd preside over if elected governor.