People can protect Minnesota’s beauty

Published 8:21 am Thursday, October 30, 2008

In her Oct. 15 column “Clean water; don’t mess up the Constitution,” Ginny Morris acknowledges that the state must clean up its waters and that protecting our natural resources is something everyone can support.

I couldn’t agree more. The Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment gives us that opportunity. The amendment will be on the ballot on Nov. 4. It asks voters to dedicate a small portion of the state sales tax to protect clean water, wildlife habitat, parks and the arts. For the average family, this will cost less than $5 per month. That’s a small price to protect our quality of life.

We have real issues facing Minnesota’s natural resources. Forty percent of the waters we have tested fail to meet federal water quality standards, and we have tested less than 20 percent of our waters. We need clean water for drinking, fishing, swimming, for the benefit of ourselves, our children and future generations. This initiative will protect our drinking water and provide funding to clean up our rivers, lakes and streams. Funding for conservation stands at a 30-year low.

Email newsletter signup

Moreover, Minnesota’s landscape is changing and is under tremendous pressure, yet funding natural resources remains near historic lows, and access for hunting, fishing and recreation is being lost. To date, the state has lost 99 percent of its original grasslands and more than 50 percent of its wetlands. More than 1 million acres of wooded lands, natural areas and farmland is expected to be converted by development over the next 25 years, as Minnesota continues growing faster than any other state in the Midwest.

To stem the dramatic, long-term losses of our natural resources and clean water, a sustained, long-term investment is required. By establishing a dedicated account and strategically targeting its fund toward the critical needs of natural and cultural resources, we have a chance to protect our lakes, land and way of life.

This makes good economic sense as well. One of the arguments recruiters from the major Minnesota Fortune 500 and 100 companies give potential recruits is the high quality of life we enjoy in this state, including the vibrant arts community and access to wonderful natural amenities. Businesses locate to the state for its high quality of life: good education system, healthy populous, clean environment and access to a vibrant arts community.

Moreover, tourism is a $10.5 billion industry in Minnesota — a key driver of the state’s economy. The leisure and hospitality industry, a major provider of tourism services, employs more than 244,200 Minnesotans and employment is projected to grow by more than 19 percent this decade. Visitors to Minnesota spend more than $32 million dollars per day. These dollars circulate widely into state’s economy, supporting a variety of businesses, jobs and amenities that add to Minnesota’s quality of life. When we conserve our water, land and way of life we enhance our tourism and reputation as a state with some of the highest quality natural resources in the country.

Merlene Stiles

Minnesota Environmental Partnership