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Governor's watered-down fishing opener is a disservice to the rural economy

This guest commentary is written by State Rep. Matt Bliss (R-Pennington) who represents District 5A.

rep. Matt Bliss.jpg
State Rep. Matt Bliss

As one of four legislative members of the Minnesota Tourism Council, I find it extremely disappointing Gov. Tim Walz has this year abandoned the Governor’s Fishing Opener as we knew it for decades.

This event started in 1948 as a way to improve Minnesota’s economy by promoting the state’s recreational opportunities, particularly fishing.

It usually starts with the naming of a host community a year in advance, with valuable publicity in the build-up and, eventually, scores of guests – media included – descending upon a host’s region for days on end to commence the new fishing season.

This year, very little public information has been released to date on exactly what the governor’s fishing event will entail. And whatever communication has been issued by the administration remains very cryptic and conspicuously lacks specifics.

For instance, the DNR indicates “The Governor will be doing a press availability in the Chippewa National Forest,” without noting exactly where in this 1.6-million-acre forest this will happen.

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Also, “The Governor will be fishing on a lake on the Leech Lake Indian Reservation” is extremely vague, given the reservation is 973 square miles and has over 338 square miles of water.

How is this being open to the public and how is it helping our tourism industry in the spirit of this once-great event?

The Walz administration’s official line seems to be that, no, they aren’t “ending” the Governor’s Fishing Opener, they’re just taking a "different" approach.

They can spin it any way they want, but let’s just say this year the Governor’s Fishing Opener will not provide a single Greater Minnesota community the opportunity to enjoy the spotlight or extend much-needed exposure to our state’s tourism industry.

As a small business owner in the tourism industry myself, located within the borders of the Leech Lake Reservation and the Chippewa National Forest, I find this very disappointing.

I am plugged into the tourism industry in the area and have heard from numerous people that they feel slighted by the governor’s action. It is not a good look for a public servant.

To my recollection, this event has always been a bipartisan affair, with olive branches extended even in the midst of heated negotiations at the Capitol.

It has been a platform to show Minnesotans that, even though we differ politically, we can still get together in the great Minnesota tradition of fishing opener and be united in our love for the outdoors.

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This year’s faux opener does nothing but provide a cheap photo op for our governor mingling with hand-picked Minnesotans. Our governor has made a habit of turning his back on Greater Minnesota and this only amplifies that reputation. It exacerbates the rural/metro divide he is causing and further erodes any remaining traces of credibility for his “One Minnesota.”

The Governor’s Fishing Opener never has been about how many fish the governor can catch, it’s been about sharing what’s good in our state and helping to boost our economy. That is the spirit of the Governor's Fishing Opener, something he needs to remember and something we need to recapture for the betterment of our state's tourism industry.

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Editor’s note: Both the Hubbard County Republicans and Hubbard County DFL are invited to write columns for the Enterprise’s Opinion page.

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