Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Minnesota Statewide Conservation and Preservation Plan

An important report has been released to the public today.

A pdf of the complete report ( 300+ pages) is available at this link.

From Minnesota Public Radio:

by Stephanie Hemphill, Minnesota Public Radio
July 8, 2008

Minnesota needs to work smarter, and invest more, to protect the environment. That's the gist of a report presented to the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources on Tuesday.

St. Paul, Minn. — It's called the Minnesota Statewide Conservation and Preservation Plan, and it's the first time this has been done: more than 100 scientists from different fields worked together to create an overall assessment of the state's environment, followed by about 60 recommendations on how to protect and restore it.

In 50 years, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness will feel more like Iowa, says Anne Kapuscinski, who directs the University's Institute for Social, Economic, and Ecological Sustainability. Climate change models show Minnesota will lose its boreal forest and that raises tough questions, she says.

"If we leave it alone, there's the risk that it would become somewhat degraded grassland with a lot of invasive species. Should we be instead trying to think of helping it become more desirable kind of savannah, or a different kind of forest but one that can tolerate warmer temperatures?"

The plan alternates between that kind of almost philosophical, nearly imponderable question, and smaller-scale advice, like put more land in conservation reserve because it'll protect water quality and provide habitat; make biofuels from perennial grasses and waste materials instead of corn, and get people to drive less by building compact, multi-use developments.

The report doesn't talk enough about the changes all of us will need to make in an environment facing so many challenges, says one member of the LCCMR, Jeff Broberg, a geologist from Rochester.

"The agricultural community needs to refocus on those conservation efforts instead of maximal profit. The development community needs to find a better way to create liveable, walkable communities that take care of their own wastewater, and their own energy uses. It's going to be a big change."

All this is going to cost more money. The LCCMR invests about $23 million a year from lottery proceeds for environmental projects. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources says it will use the report as a rough framework as it plans for its budget. The plan doesn't quantify how much more the state should invest for the environment, but it points out many areas where investment is needed.

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