In a rush to generate tax revenue for the city based on a misguided focus on higher density housing throughout Minneapolis, city leaders and planners have overlooked our environment. The second draft of the Minneapolis 2040 Plan would obliterate current zoning protections in favor of allowing development of virtually every available inch of land within the city limits. Increased density can benefit the environment as an alternative to increased sprawl, but without a necessary balance between development and needs for parks, green spaces and natural habitats, not only will wildlife suffer, but people will lose our places for socialization, renewal and natural recreation and water and air quality will suffer.
When wildlife habitat is lost, people suffer because crops and gardens are compromised for lack of pollinators, garbage and carrion linger for loss of scavengers, and overall environmental health declines in large part because of the loss of birds. Economically, bird tourism and other nature-based recreational activities are undermined. Increasing housing density without corresponding due attention to green space, parklands and the needs of wildlife and plants creates an unhealthy environment for people and all living things.
Minneapolis is known around the world for its parks and lakes, and serves a special role in support of migratory species. We believe the 2040 Plan should capitalize on our city’s vitality by prioritizing green space. The Plan should emphasize green building, including green roofs, wildlife and pollinator habitat, and setbacks for green boulevards. Instead, the current plan enables the destruction of green space and reduced water quality by increasing pavement and other impervious surfaces, and pushing buildings to the edge of lot lines. Preserving and expanding green space and creating connected natural areas and wildlife corridor networks not only protects birds, pollinators and other wildlife, but helps minimize the adverse environmental stressors on the public health caused by pollution and hard landscape surfaces.
Minneapolis occupies a crucial place in the Mississippi Flyway/Corridor used by literally millions of birds and dozens of insect and other species. If we protect and provide green space to ensure that migrants have sustenance for their migrations, not only do people in Minneapolis benefit directly from the presence of remarkable species, but countless environments and communities north and south of us benefit from our care and attention to the needs of these migrants. We owe our residents and our neighbors near and far a plan that honors and promotes the health of all our environmental needs.
Any effort to facilitate development of new housing and commercial spaces needs to be balanced with an equally crucial commitment to sustaining green space, parkland and all opportunities to protect and promote the vitality of all living beings.
Keith Olstad and Ann Laughlin, Audubon Chapter of Minneapolis; Constance Pepin, Friends of Roberts Bird Sanctuary; and Wendy Haan, Minnesota Citizens for the Protection of Migratory Birds
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