New plan outlines vision for state’s environment

St. Paul – A comprehensive plan, more than 18 months in the
making, to protect and improve the state’s natural resources has
been completed. Sweeping in its scope, supporters say it provides
more than 60 recommendations that will help lawmakers and others
protect the environment now and into the future.

The 330-page plan was formally presented last week. It doesn’t
contain estimates of what it might cost to implement the
recommendations.

“People have described it as a roadmap,” said Susan Thornton,
Legislative-Citizens Commission on Minnesota Resources director. “I
kind of view it more as a full atlas.”

LCCMR funded the plan, completed by the University of
Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment. In a release, Deb
Swackhamer, the Institute’s interim director, said the plan
represents a “profound moment” for the state.

“The Statewide Conservation and Preservation Plan project teams
aimed to create a blueprint for preserving our quality of life and
economic vitality across the state,” she said.

The plan will guide funding recommendations the LCCMR makes each
year from lottery proceeds, but state agencies also are expected to
make use of it.

The plan represents a way for anyone involved in conservation to
have common language about the problems the state faces in the
future, according to Laurie Martinson, deputy commissioner of the
DNR.

“It sets a framework for us as a state to talk about the
environment and natural resource issues,” she said. “We’ll be using
it as a framework as we (work on) our biennial budget proposal for
the year.”

While the plan joins what’s a long list of existing plans,
supporters say it’s the most comprehensive one ever done and could
be used to guide the spending of money that would be raised should
voters approve the dedicated funding ballot question this fall.

“We don’t want to duplicate (the other plans that exist), but we
want to make sure that where they all agree, that’s where our
priorities are placed,” said Gary Botzek, Minnesota Conservation
Federation executive director.

Some of the recommendations in the plan include:

€ Acquire high-priority shorelands throughout the state, and
protect private shorelands with economic incentives and other
tools.

€ Restore and protect shallow lakes.

€ Keep water on the landscape.

€ Protect large blocks of forested land.

€ Transition renewable fuel feedstocks to perennial crops.

The plan is meant to be a working document – one that’s updated
as things change – that builds on past investments, Thornton
said.

“The goal is how can we, with similar yet different missions,
agree on how we can move forward together on some of these
recommendations,” she said.

The final, copy-edited version of the plan will be available in
the near future on CDs as well as in hard-copy versions.

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