The following is an editorial from the Mankato Free Press.
A public-private partnership that aims to preserve and restore what’s left of Minnesota’s priarie lands stands as a solid approach to a growing environmental problem.
Last week, 10 leading conservation groups and state and federal governments announced a $3.5 billion plan to restore and preserve some 2.2 million acres of prairie along Minnesota’s western edge. The plan would over 25 years use about $1.1 billion in state sales tax Legacy money and about $2.5 billion from other sources.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and such groups as Nature Conservancy, Pheasants Forever and Audobon Society signed a memorandum of understanding to work jointly on the program.
Minnesota DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr said only about 1 percent of the state’s native prairie is left and more and more is being consumed each year with development pressure and high commodity prices in farming.
A recent study by the Environmental Working Group showed 37,000 square miles of prairie and wetlands had been converted for crops in the last four years.
High commodity prices have also been creating an incentive for farmers to pull their land from the federal Conservation Reserve Program. John Jaschke, head of state Board of Water and Soil Conservation, estimated half of the land currently in CRP in Minnesota will be turned back to crop production in five years.
The program announced last week would, however, encourge livestock grazing on prairies as Bison had long been part of a prairie ecosystem. The group says this would help agriculture diversify and create local economic development.
The program would also buy some land to keep or restore it in prairie and pay farmers for permanent easements to keep prairie on privately owned land.
Prairie and grasslands are not only important to preserve a diverse ecosytem of thousands of plants, they also help prevent pollution. Long roots of prairie plants soak up more water and prevent runoff. They also filter contaminants for water running off into streams and rivers.
The prairie preservation plan works well on several levels. It is a private-nonprofit-public partnership. It helps reduce further pollution of public wateways and maintains the diverse plant life that Minnesota enjoyed for thousands of years.
Reprinted with permission.
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