The Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund is a permanent fund in the state treasury that was established in the Minnesota Constitution (Art. XI, Sec.14) through voter approval. It holds assets that can be appropriated by law, "for the public purpose of protection, conservation, preservation, and enhancement of the state's air, water, land, fish, wildlife, and other natural resources." To learn more about the ENRTF, please visit the About page of our website.
The Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund was created in 1988 when 77% of Minnesota voters approved an amendment to the Minnesota Constitution (Art. XI, Sec.14). The ENRTF was created to provide a long-term, consistent, and stable source of funding for innovative activities directed at protecting and enhancing Minnesota's environment and natural resources for the benefit of current and future generations.
The money in the ENRTF originates from a combination of contributions and investment income. Forty percent of the net proceeds from the Minnesota State Lottery, or approximately seven cents of every dollar spent on playing the lottery, are contributed to the ENRTF each year; this source of contribution is guaranteed by the Minnesota Constitution through December 31, 2024. The ENRTF may also receive contributions from other sources, such as private donations. Once deposited into the ENRTF, contributions become part of the principal balance and are invested in a combination of stocks and bonds. The income generated from these investments is reinvested back into the ENRTF. Initially, growth of the ENRTF originated primarily from contributions, but as the principal balance of the ENRTF has grown so has the income from investing that principal. Eventually annual growth from investment income should equal and then surpass annual growth from contributions. The State Board of Investment is responsible for the management of the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund.
This website includes information on all ENRTF-funded projects by year, including work plans, budgets, and contact information for organizations receiving funds, as well as final reports, abstracts, and work products for completed projects. A list of all funded projects can be found under the “Projects Funded” drop-down in the menu.
A summary of accomplishments can be found on the About page of our website. Information about projects, including stories published in the news, are included in our weekly “Updates from LCCMR” that you can receive by signing up for our email list. We also post about ENRTF- funded projects on the ENRTF’s Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
Between 1991 and 2021, the ENRTF has provided over $875 million to nearly 1,800 projects around the state. Funded projects fall into the following broad subject areas:
Up to 4% of the dollars available for appropriation are available to be used for LCCMR administration. Since FY12, less than 2% annually has been used for administration.
Since most projects have multiple benefits and pertain to multiple subject areas, it is not possible to represent the amount of funds that have been uniquely directed toward the individual subject areas, however, we do keep track of how much is spent and the often times multiple subject areas that were addressed with each project.
Funded by the ENRTF, the Statewide Conservation and Preservation Plan (SCPP) was the product of a collaborative effort of more than 125 experts to provide recommendations for long-term strategies to address critical issues and trends impacting Minnesota's environment and natural resources. The effort was led by the University of Minnesota's Institute on the Environment and conducted on behalf of the LCCMR, which had been directed to develop the plan by the Legislature and the governor.
The SCPP provided a comprehensive inventory and assessment of Minnesota's environment and natural resources, identified and prioritized key issues and trends affecting Minnesota's environment and natural resources, and offered prioritized recommendations for long-term strategies to best address these issues and trends. The SCPP was an important resource for helping to guide public and private decision-makers with planning, policy, and funding investment and served as the basis for many LCCMR strategic plans and the current RFP. The Statewide Conservation and Preservation Plan is available on our website, under “Documents” in the menu.
By law (MS 116P.08, Sub. 1), money from the ENRTF may be spent only for:
By law (MS 116P.08, Sub. 2), money from the ENRTF may not be spent for:
The ENRTF can only be used to fund projects of long-term benefit to Minnesota's environment and natural resources. The law (MS 116P.03) also stipulates that the ENRTF may not be used as a substitute for traditional sources of environment or natural resource funding; it must supplement, not supplant, the traditional sources of money.
Anyone may apply for an appropriation from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund providing the proposal is consistent with public purposes and the applicant has demonstrated adequate fiscal capacity. However, many more proposals are received than can be funded. Past recipients include state and federal agencies, local government units, academic institutions, non-profit organizations, and private corporations.
The Minnesota Constitution provides that up to 5.5% of the market value of the fund can be used for projects each year. This 5.5% value is determined for both years of each fiscal biennium based on the market value of the ENRTF on June 30 one year prior to the start of the next biennium.
Proposals for funding are submitted to the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) in response to an annually issued Request for Proposals (RFP). LCCMR members review and evaluate proposals and the Commission as a whole then decides upon a selection of proposals to recommend for funding. The recommendations are submitted to the state legislature in the form of a bill, where they are considered and acted upon by both the Minnesota House and Senate. Upon passage, the bill is forwarded to the governor for signature.
ENRTF money is appropriated by the Legislature and must be signed into law by the governor to be authorized. Appropriations specify dollar amounts, the organization(s) to receive funds, and the purposes for which the funds can be spent. Funded projects must provide a detailed work plan that specifies the outcomes of the project and accounts for how all dollars are to be spent. This work plan must be approved by the LCCMR before the project can start spending funds. Status updates are provided to the LCCMR throughout the life of the project. Money from an ENRTF appropriation is typically provided to projects on a reimbursement basis.
There are several reasons it may seem that some portions of the state receive more or less ENRTF money than would be "expected" given either population or lottery sales. First, many of the ENRTF projects are statewide in scope or benefit and cannot be easily matched to one particular location. Examples of such projects include research into the control of invasive species such as Eurasian water milfoil and purple loosestrife or funds going toward state parks, which, although they can be matched to a locality, are statutorily intended (MS 85.011) to provide benefit to all Minnesotans. Second, the LCCMR reviews proposals based on their individual merit and consistency with its strategic plan. While the commission may aim for even distribution of funding, there is not a geographic quota. Third, there simply may be few or no proposals submitted from a particular area.
The LCCMR is a committee of legislators and citizens whose primary function is to make funding recommendations to the Minnesota Legislature for special environment and natural resource projects, primarily from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund. Additionally, the LCCMR has oversight over all projects funded through its proposal process. To learn more about the LCCMR, please visit the About page of our website.
The LCCMR is composed of 17 members: five senators, five representatives, five citizens appointed by the governor, one citizen appointed by the senate, and one citizen appointed by the house. Legislative members are appointed by legislative leadership and must include representation from both majority and minority parties. Legislative members must also include the chairs of the House and Senate committees on environment and natural resources finance or their designees. The citizen members appointed must have experience or expertise in the science, policy, or practice of the protection, conservation, preservation, and enhancement of the state's environment and natural resources.
The LCCMR developed from a program initiated in 1963 to preserve, develop, and maintain the natural resources of Minnesota to sustain the quality and quantity of outdoor recreation resources. At that time, the commission was named the Minnesota Outdoor Recreation Resource Commission. In 1967, its name was changed to the Minnesota Resources Commission. In 1975, its name was changed to the Legislative Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCMR). In 1988 the name was changed to the Minnesota Future Resources Commission, but it reverted back to the LCMR in 1989. In 2006, the commission was restructured into its current form, the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR), with the addition of non-legislative citizen members in order to include citizen input more directly in the decision-making process.
The LCCMR issues an annual Request for Proposal (RFP). Those interested in applying for funding should review the RFP to determine if a proposed project is consistent with the funding priorities outlined in the RFP. If a proposed project does match, a proposal can be submitted according to the procedures outlined in the RFP. All proposals received by the due date indicated in the RFP are considered by the LCCMR in a competitive, multi-step process. The proposals received in response to the RFP are reviewed and evaluated by LCCMR members. A selection of high-ranking proposals is chosen for further consideration and invited to present before the Commission. Ultimately, a subset of proposals is chosen to be recommended to the Legislature for funding based on the total dollars available.
Additional information and updates regarding the proposal and funding process are posted on the LCCMR website. Sign up for our email list to receive email notifications of meetings, announcements, and publications, including the RFP. LCCMR staff are always available to answer any questions.
The LCCMR proposal and funding process currently follows an annual schedule that begins in January of each year (Year A) for project funding to begin July 1 of the next year (Year B). For example, the process for project funding to begin July 1, 2021 began with a Request for Proposal (RFP) issued in January 2020. Specific dates for the proposal and funding process timeline vary from year to year, but a typical process adheres approximately to the following schedule:
The Minnesota State Lottery does not have a role in the LCCMR's proposal and funding process or the distribution of ENRTF dollars. The Minnesota State Lottery generates money that is contributed toward the growth of the ENRTF, thereby continuing to increase the state's ability to provide support for Minnesota's environment and natural resources.
The lottery's sales figures represent the total dollars generated before expenses are deducted. Expenses include prizes and administration. While higher sales figures for the lottery generally mean greater contributions to the ENRTF, the contributions are not based on lottery sales but on the lottery's net proceeds - the amount left over after all expenses are deducted. The ENRTF is constitutionally designated to receive forty percent of net proceeds from lottery sales. This is the equivalent of a little over 6 cents of every dollar of lottery sales.
For every dollar spent on playing the lottery:
There are three state funds other than the ENRTF that receive lottery dollars: the Game and Fish Fund, the Natural Resources Fund, and the General Fund. The money from each of these funds is used for different purposes:
No. ENRTF appropriations are only a small part of total state spending relating to the environment and natural resources. So far ENRTF appropriations have equaled less than one percent of the total state spending on environment and natural resources biennially. The general fund, bonding, and user fees have accounted for the bulk of spending in these areas. The voter-adopted outdoor heritage, clean water, parks and trails, and arts and cultural heritage amendment to the Minnesota Constitution (MN Constitution Art. XI, Sec. 15), passed in November 2008, dedicates portions of three-eighths of one percent of state sales tax to specific types of environment and natural resources projects through June 30, 2034 and provides a boost to state spending in these areas.
The revenue streams that contribute to the Outdoor Heritage Fund, Clean Water Fund, and the Parks and Trails Fund versus the ENRTF differ in terms of the types of public money each represents and the permanency of these revenue streams. Money in the Outdoor Heritage Fund, Clean Water Fund, and Parks and Trails Fund all comes from public tax dollars generated through a state sales tax of three-eighths of one percent. The structure of the three funds makes all of the money directly available for expenditure on projects as it becomes available. However, since the sales tax is only in effect until June 30, 2034, the revenue stream is not permanent.
The sources of money for the ENRTF are not tax generated dollars but a combination of forty percent of net proceeds from the Minnesota State Lottery and income to the state generated from investing those proceeds. In order to provide a permanent source of funds and help these dollars have the greatest impact over time, the ENRTF is structured like an endowment: money is accumulated, it is invested for continued growth, and 5.5% of the compounding principal balance is available for projects each year. Lottery proceeds are dedicated to the ENRTF through December 31, 2024.
Expenditures of money from each of the different funds follow different guidelines. The Outdoor Heritage Fund, Clean Water Fund, and Parks and Trails are limited to very targeted types of environment and natural resources projects. The ENRTF has a broader mandate with greater flexibility in the types of environment and natural resources projects it can fund. The specific language defining the use of the ENRTF and each of the three new funds is as follows: