Get political to change status quo on resources

  • Article by: ROD SANDO
  • Updated: November 19, 2013 - 5:33 PM

Columnist ignores how the real world works.

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Dennis Anderson is correct when he points out that the status quo is not working for the conservation of Minnesota’s natural resources (“Status quo on land, water issues is a threat to the state,” Oct. 26). In his call for new ideas he offers a number of possible choices that might have a positive impact if the barriers could be overcome. Anderson says government is not the answer because government is unable to be effective.

Yet the reality is that the resources Anderson is concerned about are public resources that have been harmed by private landowners. Conservation on private lands is what is not working. Landowners enthusiastically change wetlands and grass lands to produce crops — at the expense of our water and wildlife resources. It is also impossible to ignore the role of government when public resources are being managed.

Anderson suggests all this could be solved by the creation of a citizen council that would produce new ideas and a form of citizen governance that he assumes would be effective. Maybe that could happen, but it could also be another dead end unless the council would have significant authority and the ability to implement its ideas.

Anderson rightly points out that any significant progress in conservation in recent decades has come through the activation of the large number of Minnesotans who support conservation. We have seen good results whenever this majority of the voters is informed and motivated to endorse needed changes in the way things are done.

However, Anderson has a naive and biased view of government and seems to ignore the state’s Constitution and statutes, which direct and control the actions of state agencies. He claims they are the lapdogs of the governor and the Legislature, which is a harsh criticism, representing an ignorant bias rather than real knowledge of the working environment of those agencies.

How about this for a new idea? Let’s form a political action committee for conservation: Raise money to support conservation-minded candidates and fund political action to motivate voters to support better regulation and more vigorous implementation of existing and new laws.

This is how the real world works. Even though we have examples of success when the conservation community bands together to get results, there has not been an effort to go at this problem as the rest of the big players do.

If we could combine the clout of money and the huge base of conservation voters in the state, we would likely see rapid progress in this difficult fight. Rest assured that big agriculture will not willingly make the changes needed to alter the landscape unless there is good reason to do so. They are ruling the roost now. And, we have no roosters.

Rod Sando, a former commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, is retired in Oregon.

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