In rural Minnesota, taking the buffer conversation into the field (video)

CASTLE ROCK TOWNSHIP, Minn. — What would bring a dozen or so people, including Twin Cities media, to a remote country road 50 miles or so from the heart of Minneapolis, the nearest small town nowhere in sight?

The same thing that trickled below and on each side of that gravel road.

Water. And, in turn, vegetation buffers and how they can impact water.

Outdoors advocates, conservationists, a landowner and a politician, along with a few media types, gathered here, between Castle Rock and Randolph in far southern Dakota County, on Friday to talk about the need for buffers between farmland and the like and those water sources.

There was a method to the madness in choosing this location: On one side of the road, North Chub Creek was significantly buffered on both sides with, well, buffers. But on the other side of the road, there was little or no buffer on both sides of the small, bubbling creek.

So here, against a backdrop of blue sky, sunshine and farmland, Rep. Rick Hansen (DFL-South St. Paul) as well as representatives from Pheasants Forever and Trout Unlimited voiced concerns over the Minnesota Legislature’s recent handling of buffers, saying delays by the Legislature regarding buffer regs and talk of minimizing the size of those buffers, among other points, is troublesome.

“It’s about clean water,” said Tony Nelson, habitat chair for the Twin Cities Chapter of Minnesota Trout Unlimited. “Sure, we get pheasants and trout out of it, but we all need clean water.”

Without protective buffers, for example, there is the possibility that chemicals used by farmers will creep into those water systems. But buffers also protect those farmers’ livelihood.

“With buffers, after heavy rains, it helps the dirt from going away,” said Ken Betzold, the farmer who owns that plot of land with buffers on both sides of North Chub Creek. “We rely on dirt as farmers. If the dirt goes away, it costs us money.”

Hansen was asked which was the more crucial of those two main concerns — the legislative delay or talk of reducing the current buffer (from 50 feet to 16-and-a-half feet).

“The buffers would hurt the protection,” he said of a reduction in buffer size.

“But the delay would eliminate that protection.”

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