By Peggy Ladner
In Minnesota, we are defined by water from Lake Superior and the Mississippi River to more than 10,000 inland lakes. Our quality of life and economy depend on these waters in so many ways from transportation and manufacturing to recreation and drinking water.
Almost 1 million people in St. Cloud and the Twin Cities get their drinking water from the Mississippi River, and fishing alone generates billions of dollars in direct expenditures in Minnesota each year.
For many of us, protecting our water means shoreline protection, which is an important piece of the puzzle. But we also need to think about the quality of the water itself, and the news there is not good. Monitoring by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency suggests that four out of every 10 lakes and streams are polluted.
To truly protect our water, we need to look not just at our lakes but to the rivers and streams that flow into them, and the lands surrounding them. What we do on the land has an impact on the health of our waters. If we protect our forests, wetlands and grasslands, they will help filter out chemicals, fertilizers and other pollutants before they reach our rivers and lakes.
In the central region of Minnesota, which encompasses the Brainerd Lakes area and a major portion of the Mississippi River headwaters, we have porous, sandy soils. As a result, there is a very close connection between surface water and groundwater. So protecting the forests and wetlands around our lakes will also help keep our water supply safe and clean.
The Nature Conservancy has developed a comprehensive list of Minnesota’s many different types of lakes (pdf 252K), which we and others are using to guide their conservation. And we’re collaborating with landowners and other partners to protect the forests, wetlands and grasslands that help keep them clean and healthy. Please join us in conserving our rivers and lakes and help protect the good life in Minnesota.
Ladner is Director of The Nature Conservancy in Minnesota