The continuing loss of prairie habitat is the major problem confronting Minnesota conservationists, Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr told about 400 people in Bloomington on Friday at the opening of the agency’s annual two-day round table with key stakeholders.
As a result, wildlife as varied as badgers, monarch butterflies, ducks and pheasants are suffering population declines, the commissioner said, despite millions of dollars of habitat restoration efforts funded in large part by the Legacy Amendment, approved by voters in 2008.
“We’re going to see [habitat] losses that exceed our ability to replace them,’’ Landwehr said. “In a really good year we might create 20,000 to 40,000 acres of habitat. But we’re losing 100,000 acres a year. It’s not going in the right direction.’’
Landwehr’s warning about “unprecedented’’ wildlife losses in the state’s farmlands essentially was a repeat of remarks he made at the same conclave a year ago.
Friday’s gathering was opened by Gov. Mark Dayton, who noted, “We all know that natural resources in this state are a huge part of what’s so special about Minnesota.’’
But the governor said the state’s increasing human population and its growing commerce and industry pose challenges to Minnesota’s lakes and waters.
All the more reason, Dayton said, for those who oversee about $300 million in Legacy Amendment funds each year to make sure the money is producing results taxpayers expect.
Landwehr offered some success stories from the past year. About 21,000 acres of land had been protected, he said, 240,000 Minnesotans had enrolled in outdoor education classes, 166,000 kids took part in archery instruction and 26,000 Minnesotans earned firearm safety certificates.
Goals for the coming year, Landwehr said, include further cleanup of state waters, addressing the threat of aquatic invasive species, improving deer numbers, finding a fix for Mille Lacs walleyes and comprehensively addressing the prospect of precious metals mining in the northeast.