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Tuesday Talk: What’s our natural resources legacy?

April 10, 2012 By Katie Sanders, Interim Communications Director

Conservative policymakers have significantly changed many of the conservation laws in Minnesota. It seems to be easier to hunt wolf than to slow the Asian carp’s invasion. These laws will change hunting, fishing, boating and hiking, key recreational activities. The Minnesota economy relies heavily on our environment for tourism.

Do you think the laws will aid or discourage economic growth? What will be our natural resources legacy?

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  • Mike Downing says:

    April 10, 2012 at 8:30 am

    Our legacy will be all about our fiscal crisis and debt we are handing over to our children & grandchildren. Very little notice will be paid to our natural resources with the exception that our water and air is cleaner now than when I grew up in the 1950s & 1960s.

  • KJC says:

    April 10, 2012 at 9:02 am

    A long time ago, our wonderful original forests were mowed down for money… can you genuinely say that the average citizen (or state government) got any long-term positive legacy out of that? 
    Then our very high quality iron ore got shipped out, too ... again with little thought about the long-term legacy.
    It seems that we allow some body or some company to make a lot of money off our natural resources… and when they get exhausted, the state then has to pay for the clean-up and the dislocation, etc.  That’s a tired old game:  “privatize the gains, and socialize the losses.” 
    Will we allow that again?  Other states are not so “anything goes.”  Look at how Texas and Alaska have oil separation “fees” to make sure they get a cut from their natural resources.  Essentially we all pay towards (what would be) their taxes in those states when we buy gasoline.  (Then some politicians brag about their low taxes and pretend they have some “smart formula” about low taxes…when it’s all just about having oil in the ground.)
    This question is coming up again in Minnesota… mining in our Arrowhead region is waking up again.  It is even being speculated that we may have one of the largest copper deposits in the world, southwest of Ely. 
    Will this possible “boom” go like the previous ones, where it was “privatize the gains,” and afterwards it will be “socialize the losses?”  Yes, we’d have to think long-term, and not be left once gain with the state being stuck with the clean-up and dislocation costs after industry has cut-and-run.
    There will be legacy to consider, and the effects on our tourism industry must be part of the equation, too.
    Sorry to have to point this way…but if you check, you’ll find some of the mining interests are not even from the USA… it’s from the “Greater Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.” 
    So?  There was this time right before WWII when Japan was buying up all our scrap steel… and we paid for the myopia of not seeing (or caring) what was being done with that resource very dearly, didn’t we? 
    Lots to think about…

  • Paul Conklin says:

    April 10, 2012 at 9:08 am

    One example of counterproductive resource lawmaking is the effort to get more money out of the School Trust Lands.  These lands have been in the hands of professional foresters in the DNR for decades.  Those that are good for timber have been managed for timber and produce income, but many of the School Trust stands are on marginal land.  They might have trees on them, but they are considered non-merchantable by foresters—the trees are old, the species are undesirable, they are growing in wetlands.  Many of these have been designated for protection as examples of threatened ecosystems.  Yes the tree could be cut, for a little one time revenue, but they wouldn’t regenerate, and we’d be left with useless brushlands.

    Yet legislation in passed by the House would take all these lands out of DNR management and give it to a new government entity (at what cost? and from the no new government folks?) and in the Senate they law said to ignore all other considerations to maximize profit.

    So we trash vulnerable ecosystems to raise a few thousand dollars in 2013 as our legacy on lands that are supposed to be managed for our schools in perpetuity? What about future educational value? What about the long term economic value of ecological diversity? 

    There is a healthy mix of professional opinions in the DNR, from production centered to preservationist.  Let the state employees do their job.

  • Douglas Agustin says:

    April 10, 2012 at 9:30 am

    It never comes out very well when politics enter the field of natural resources management.
    It is obvious, most of the neo-conservatives now in the MN congress have little interest in what is best for our resources or what anyone that has a differing opinion thinks.  Removing control from the professionals and creating another government body is not logical nor practical regarding our school lands as it will inevitably cost us in many ways.
    Yet we have very real problems with things like Asian carp and they refuse to address the problem in a proactive manner.

    It begs the question,“What are they thinking?”  The truth is, they are not thinking - - at least not in a critical thinking manner.

  • Ginny says:

    April 10, 2012 at 10:22 am

    The real question is what kind of state do we want? We are blessed by forests, water—lakes, streams, waterfalls—and similar natural resources that people love and need. To destroy or damage them damages us and our unique state resources. People love the Boundary Waters (I do) and spend time there to get away from noise, pollution, lights, and the like.
    We don’t know all the consequences of confiscating our natural resources. By the 1920s or even earlier, our pine forests—which people thought were inexhaustible—were gone, making the Weyerhausers, Walkers, Staples, and other immensely rich—and leaving behind highly combustible “slash” that resulted in terrible forest fires and deaths throughout the state. People thought the immense pine forests were inexhaustible.
    People thought the mourning doves were inexhaustible, too, but they were a casualty, too, of unfettered killing.
    Tourism does bring money, but why can’t we leave that aside and just treasure our natural treasures.
    The Passenger Pigeon was once the dominant bird in this country; flocks overhead darkened the sky. It too was inexhaustible, now it’s extinct.
    I cannot understand this lust for killing. Why let hunters shoot the mourning dove, these beautiful little birds with their soft cooing? They are really too small to eat. Why kill wolves? They need to be protected; there is no excuse for killing them; there are other ways to keep the populations of moose and wolves in balance.
    In the end, humans suffer from our killings and interventions that might make someone a buck or satisfy their lust for killing. We have encroached on their land and we need to figure out how to coexist.
    Not everything is about money.

  • Mike Downing says:

    April 10, 2012 at 10:49 am


    Please read the actual Bills. The Land Trust was created to provide funds for the education of our children. The fact is the DNR have been very poor stewards for our children’s education. There may have been illegal use of funds from the income produced from these educational Land Trusts. The DNR’s salvation is the VERY poor accounting of the use of Land Trust fund by the DNR.

    Fortunately these Bills have bipartisan support by all Reps & Senators who have interest in the education of our children.

  • tony says:

    April 10, 2012 at 12:09 pm

    It is not a matter of money vs the environment, you can have both but in a balance. In SE MN the oil companies are quietly trying to but up farmland to mine for silica sand for use as part of the fracking process. The local towns & counties are putting on 1 year moratoriums as they have become aware of the health issues(silica dust is a carcinogen), the environmetal issues(noise, heavy trucks on rural roads: Chippewa Falls mine runs 550 trips a day), water issues(these mines use enormous amounts of water, a mine in Maiden Rock, WI uses 1.5 million gallons a day)& the loss of property values(would you buy a house next to an open pit mine). Now a bill has been sponsored by Repubs. that would take away the rights of towns & counties to place these moratoriums & give them the time to explore these issues. We are in danger of turning southern MN into West Virginia(the Shakopee mine site is 1000 acres), Wisc. is opening 120 new mines. Wake up people, the time to save our legacy is today. Check out saveThe Bluffs [] & see what your neighbors are doing to protect their lands & their children.

  • Jeff says:

    April 10, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    Paul correctly points out that the school forest lands are very marginal with respect to producing much in the way of timber.  That, combined with a horrid housing market has made it virtually impossible to make much money from any of the lands in question.  This is a futile attempt to make a silk purse from a sow’s ear.
    Conservatives are no longer conservatives in the mold of T. Roosevelt, someone that truly understood the meaning of being a conservative with respect to our natural resources.  The debt we owe now will pale in comparison to the wars that will be fought over the dwindling resources that ‘conservatives’ think just magically appear under the ground.  And finally, only about a third of our waters are cleaner now than they were 40 years ago, third are about the same and the remaining third are getting worse.  That only a third are getting worse can most likely attributed to the Clean Water Act that was signed into law by that rogue liberal Richard Nixon.  Yes, that same Clean Water Act that Republicans try to gut every chance they get.  It was this shortsightedness that caused me to leave the Republican part behind years ago.

  • W. D. (Bill) Hamm says:

    April 10, 2012 at 2:42 pm

    To both Paul and Jeff, niether of you has any concept of what your talking about when you speak of School Trust lands. These are no more marginal lands than the lands right next to them as they consist of the same sections of land out of each township. Tommy Rukavina has been the champion of the Iron Range Deligation on this issue followed closely by David Dill and the rest of the deligation. We are talking about several hundred thousand acres of forest that has been sorely mismanaged or taken out of production for years by the DNR. This has nothing to do with conservation management, it has everything to do with mismanagement.

  • Ginny says:

    April 10, 2012 at 3:40 pm

    The so-called conservatives want to sell off “unneeded” public lands—and that includes parks like Yellowstone, the first national park—to private companies. They are willing to sell off public buildings and even historic landmarks for money—they’re an eyesore, they say, and cost money to keep up. The Cuyhoga River caught fire several years ago; no matter, said one prominent Native American sarcastically—nobody was “doing anything with it anyway.” The Disney company tried to buy Gettysburg battlefield to make a Civil War theme park but citizen uproar halted it.
    What is conservative about any of this? Everything is up for sale. Everything. Why don’t they want to conserve anything. They are truly mis-named.

  • jeff says:

    April 10, 2012 at 7:48 pm

    Bill, sorry but I was a forester for a private company for 10 years - I know a hell of a lot more about forestry and school lands than you’ll ever dream of knowing. 80% of those lands weren’t even worth cruising and never will be that is unless black spruce are to suddenly become vogue for making cabinets.

  • W. D. (Bill) Hamm says:

    April 11, 2012 at 10:38 am

    One of my 3 degrees is in “Forest and Wildlife management Jeff, and I have 20+ years of cruising Northern Minnesota as a contract Forester for the DNR, several Counties, and the US Forest Service. I was also aboard member of C.W.C.S. (Conservationists with common sence) for 8 years as well as their rep on several other commitees including M.N.C.L.U.B. (Northern Minnesota Counties Land Use Board). I have worked for many years with Tommy Rukavina and many others on this issue.

  • Frank Hawthorne says:

    April 11, 2012 at 11:02 am

    I too grew-up in the 1950’s & 60’s; and perceive that (environmentally) many good things have occured in the years since. And it is also true that we have much work to do, in numerous areas. SEE, for example, how we still pollute too many of our famous 10K lakes, plus numerous other waterways, in this natural paradise called Minnesota. As others have pointed-out, both the Good & the Bad did Not happen in a vacuum—political or cultural—and it still takes champions of All parties & interests to conserve that which is precious to us All. Yes; we can & should achieve a balance which still recognizes the needs of economic interests; but those who politicize that which should be intrinsically of vital environmental interest to everyone deserve little but our scorn.