The Nature Conservancy of Minnesota received an early Christmas gift this year — a record $39 million raised in its biggest campaign to preserve forests, waterways and land here and around the world.
The campaign will help protect ecosystems ranging from the lush Brazilian rain forests to the “seas of prairie grassland” across Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.
“The people of the Midwest understand that our economy and our quality of life benefit when we have clean water, abundant wildlife habitat and beautiful natural landscapes that benefit both wildlife and people,” said Jud Dayton, chairman of the five year “Nature Now” campaign.
“It was a lot of work,’’ said Dayton, “but extremely rewarding.”
The biggest slice of funding — $17.2 million — funds the purchase of land and development rights for large tracts of forests, prairies and waterways in Minnesota and the Dakotas. It allowed the state to purchase development rights on 340,000 acres of forest owned by timber companies, said Peggy Ladner, director of the Nature Conservancy in Minnesota.
Another $3 million will go toward protecting native prairies and managing them through such practices as burning, haying and invasive species control, said Ladner.
About $7.3 million will be earmarked for projects such as environmental advocacy and developing scientific models for adapting natural resources to climate change, she said.
International conservation projects will receive $4.5 million, said Ladner, and another $8.5 million are “deferred gifts.”
The projects, though often far from the metro area, touch the lives of Twin Cities residents in many ways, Ladner said.
“The drinking water for the Twin Cities comes from the Upper Mississippi,” she said. “What we do with those forests affects the quality of our water here.”
The fundraising campaign more than doubles the Nature Conservancy’s previous Minnesota fundraising record of $18 million over five years.