After an unusually cold spring, Minnesotans across the state are celebrating the arrival of summer. Thousands headed to lakes and rivers to celebrate the 4th of July weekend, basking in the warm weather and the marvel of living in the state of 10,000 lakes.
Just as the average citizen values our rich natural resources, so does the state legislature. Over the past two years we have enacted legislation that will help protect our lakes, streams and prairie lands, increase our use of renewable energy, decrease our carbon emissions, and strengthen our commitment to biofuels. We were also fortunate to find the resources to add Lake Vermillion to Minnesota's beautiful state park system.
Of particular significance currently is the work being done by the Legislative Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR), on which I serve. The LCCMR developed from a program initiated in 1963, and is made up of 17 members: 5 Senators, 5 Representatives, 5 citizens appointed by the governor, 1 citizen appointed by the Senate, and 1 citizen appointed by the House. As a legislator/citizen body, the LCCMR is responsible for making funding recommendations to the legislature for special environment and natural resource projects, primarily from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund, which is funded by state lottery dollars.
During the 2008 session, the legislature appropriated funds for 72 statewide projects on the recommendation of the LCCMR. They were designed to protect and improve habitat and water quality, collect essential natural resource information and provide environmental education. Some of them include:
· acquisition of over 3,000 acres to protect forests, wetlands and other habitat;
· restoration of close to 13,000 acres through soil preparation, native vegetation installation and invasive species removal;
· research to advance our knowledge and help us address issues relating to climate change;
· education and outreach to citizens and schoolchildren on issues such as reducing energy waste, water quality and natural resources planning.
On July 8th, the members of the LCCMR heard a Statewide Conservation and Preservation Plan, compiled and presented by a team of scientists and environmental experts from the University of Minnesota. This plan is the result of almost two years of work, and includes 50 specific recommendations for all of the state's environmental issues, including biofuels, wildlife habitat, land use and energy issues.
Some of the recommendations can be addressed during a single legislative session, while others are meant to be implemented over decades. The plan addresses concerns such as the dwindling of lakeshore habitat and the impact that the increasing amount of impervious surfaces is having on our water supply. It also focuses heavily on the future of biofuels as a leading energy source; what types of crops should be planted and where, as well as the impact the harvesting of these crops will have on our water supply and wildlife.
I'm very pleased to have the privilege of serving on the LCCMR. We must protect our precious Minnesota legacy of clean air and water, natural habitat and wildlife, and healthy living. Future generations of Minnesotans will thank us for our efforts.