Anderson: Prairie Summit has giant task -- saving our fish and wildlife

  • Article by: DENNIS ANDERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 23, 2013 - 1:12 AM

The state’s first Prairie Summit will take on a host of problems that threaten the very existence of our fish and wildlife.

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Fish, wildlife and their habitats in Minnesota and the Dakotas face threats on so many ­levels that anything short of a well-developed plan effectively executed will all but guarantee failure.

Photo: Dennis Anderson, Star Tribune file

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Folks, we need a master conservation plan. And right now no such plan exists.

Far from it.

In fact, if the past is prologue, such a plan never will be developed in Minnesota. There’s too much inertia among state agencies and too few conservation leaders in state government.

And even fewer citizens who give a rip.

At stake are all manner of wildlife, but perhaps none more so than the fowl that historically have meant the most to Minnesotans: ducks and pheasants.

But not only these.

Upland sandpipers, marbled godwits, short-eared owls, western meadowlarks and bobolinks, among many other songbirds, as well as a shost of other mammalian and aquatic species, also will suffer if the loss of grassland and wetland habitat continues apace here and in the Dakotas — the two states that represent the nation’s last best places for prairie wildlife.

Virtually in real time, we are witnessing the extinction of these resources, and with them the lifestyles they have long afforded Minnesotans.

Also at risk are the state’s lakes and fish and the recreational pursuits attached to them, each threatened by Asian carp, zebra mussels and other invasive species.

But the biggest problem?

We have no plan.

Yes, we have the Department of Natural Resources. And the Board of Water and Soil Resources. And the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service, among other state and federal agencies.

Minnesota is also home to more and more active wildlife, conservation and environmental groups than any other state. And we have the Legacy Act, which provides about $100 million a year for fish, game and wildlife habitat.

But Minnesota’s conservation and natural-heritage preservation problems can’t be solved by a wetland project here and a wildlife management area established there.

The reason:

The state’s fish, wildlife and their habitats face threats on so many ­levels that anything short of a plan well-developed and effectively executed will all but guarantee failure.

Consider:

• Aging baby boomers in Minnesota and across the nation are leaving outdoor activities in droves, and in many cases taking their financial support with them.

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