Spyhalski reappointed to wildlife committee

Published 10:36 am Thursday, December 19, 2013

Fifteen Minnesotans, including an Austinite, have been appointed to the citizen oversight committees that monitor the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ fish and wildlife spending.

Paul Spyhalski of Austin was reappointed to Wildlife Oversight Committee, along with six others newly or reappointed. The remaining eight were reappointed or newly appointed to the Fisheries Oversight Committee.

DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr appointed each to a three-year term. Appointees are responsible for reviewing the DNR’s annual Game and Fish Fund report and holding discussions and preparing reports on their findings.

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Spyhalski first applied to join the committee before 2011 in the midst of proposed hunting and fishing license fee hikes.

“When I first heard about [the committee] was when they were talking about raising all of the license fees,” Spyhalski said. “I heard about it and said, ‘Well, I want to take a look at this and have an idea of what they’re really doing with the funds.”
Committees will resume work after the December publication of the DNR’s Game and Fish Fund report for fiscal year 2013.

“We look forward to working with these volunteers,” said Erika Rivers, DNR assistant commissioner. “The appointments continue our commitment to share detailed budget information, bring new participants into the oversight process and ensure revenue generated by hunting and fishing license sales is used appropriately.”

The Fisheries Oversight Committee and the Wildlife Oversight Committee continue a citizen oversight function created in 1994. More than 60 people applied for oversight committee positions. Factors in choosing the new appointees included geographic distribution, demographic diversity and a mix of experienced and new participants. Spyhalski is an attorney in Austin.

“I have a legal background,” he said, “so that sort of helps a little bit.”

Committee chairs and four members will be selected to serve on an umbrella Budgetary Oversight Committee chaired by another appointee, John E. Hunt. This committee will develop a report on DNR’s annual expenditures for game and fish activities.

Minnesota’s Game and Fish Fund is the foundation for much of the state’s core fish and wildlife management functions. More than $90 million a year is deposited into this fund from hunting and fishing license sales, a sales tax on lottery tickets, and other sources of revenue, including a reimbursement based on a federal excise tax on certain hunting, fishing and boating equipment. Dollars that flow into this fund pay for fish, wildlife, enforcement and ecological management that support 48,000 jobs in Minnesota’s hunting, fishing and related hospitality businesses.

Past Game and Fish Fund reports and oversight reports are available at www.mndnr.gov/gamefishoversight/reports.html.