Anderson: Status quo on land, water issues is a threat to the state

  • Article by: DENNIS ANDERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 26, 2013 - 5:18 PM

It’s time to rethink, dramatically, Minnesota’s approach to conservation.

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A wide variety of wildlife, from ducks to pheasants to bees, depends on a healthy and diverse farmland landscape, which is fast disappearing in Minnesota.

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This ain’t working, and we need to try something different.

Radically different.

And we’ll have to do it ourselves. Because government’s not the answer.

By now, that should be obvious.

The Department of Natural Resources. The Board of Water and Soil Resources. The Pollution Control Agency.

Each has a role, and each employs many smart, well-meaning people. But as tools to fix the vast land and water issues embroiling this state, they’re ineffective.

Or at least incapable of matching the speed at which Minnesota’s water, grasslands and wetlands are being lost or severely degraded.

We don’t need another group. We have plenty of conservation, wildlife and environmental organizations in Minnesota.

We don’t even need more money.

What we need are new ideas.

Because who knows? Maybe we’ll never again see another farm conservation program like the old Soil Bank, or the more recent Conservation Reserve Program, both of which set aside vast acreages of undisturbed grasslands that invited hen pheasants, songbirds and other wildlife to nest undisturbed.

So we need a new approach.

Perhaps, for example, we’ll have to genetically engineer a different kind of pheasant — one that proliferates in and among people, like white-tailed deer and Canada geese do.

Or maybe we need to pool our money to provide more attractive incentives for farmers and other producers to leave marginal lands idle, rather than put them under a plow.

Or perhaps we need to pay the best and brightest researchers to intensify their quest for crops that are more land- and water-friendly than soybeans and corn.

Or, here’s an idea:

Why don’t we establish demonstration farms in every township to serve not only as examples of sustainable agriculture but as laboratories to test and develop crop and grass mixes that conserve natural resources, including top soil, and soil fertility, while maximizing economic return?

Think it can’t be done?

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