As the saying goes, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” A few modest steps back in early 2010 set us on the path we are now on we enter the 2011-2012 school year. As of July, YES! will be funded in part by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund (ENRTF), as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR). The Trust Fund is a permanent fund constitutionally established by the citizens of Minnesota to assist in the conservation and enhancement of the state’s natural resources. Currently 40% of net Minnesota State Lottery proceeds are dedicated to building the Trust Fund and ensuring future benefits for Minnesota’s environment and natural resources.
Initial project proposals for state funding from LCCMR (July 2011 through July 2013) were submitted in April 2010. YES! was one of numerous projects invited to present in person to the Commission in early summer 2010. The Commission issued a recommendation for funding the YES! project—among many others—in July 2010. That fall, YES! staff worked to hone the project’s work plan in preparation for review by the Minnesota legislature.
A new session in Minnesota’s legislature opened in early 2011 with many new faces in both House and Senate, and the LCCMR decided to revisit project proposals. Uncertainty regarding the status of LCCMR recommended projects persisted throughout the spring of 2011. Finally the YES! project was included among other remaining recommended projects in legislation that proceeded to the governor’s desk. As expected, the Energy and Environment legislation was vetoed, along with other budget bills, prior to Minnesota’s state government shut-down. Meanwhile, YES! staff worked with LCCMR staff to finalize the project work plan, which met approval by the Commission in late June. In July, after a nearly three-week shutdown, the Energy and Environment bill, which includes LCCMR appropriations, which in turn includes the YES! project, passed as part of Minnesota’s budget.
From today’s vantage point, in late August 2011, we have taken many steps, but remain pretty close to the beginning of our “thousand-mile” journey. We await many details as the state’s paperwork backlog is worked through in upcoming weeks. The exciting work of the project remains ahead of us, with all the enthusiasm, commitment, and energy of youth to be harnessed in rural Minnesota. We appreciate the opportunity to expand YES! and look forward to continuing our work toward increasing the vitality of Minnesota’s communities!