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Stories in Minnesota

Speak Up Minnesota: 2021 Environmental Issues Guide

Follow this guide to learn about conservation issues and speak up for nature!

In Minnesota, where we've been able to enjoy gifts like abundant freshwater, rich biodiversity and productive working lands, we also have a tremendous responsibility. We have a responsibility to cherish, respect and take care of the nature that sustains us, so it can sustain future generations as well. That’s why we’re speaking up for nature in Minnesota—and we invite you to join us!


What We're Speaking Up About

  • Flooded farm field in central Minnesota

    Tackling Climate Change

    It's already affecting our lands and waterways in profound ways. Learn about climate change in Minnesota and help us take action! Take Action.

  • Sustainable Food Systems

    The way we grow food is currently one of our biggest environmental threats to water and climate. It's time to transform food systems for a sustainable future. Take Action.

  • Prairie flowers visited by monarch butterflies.

    Protecting Lands & Waters

    Protecting nature protects life. We must ensure the protection of our most resilient lands and waters to ensure Minnesota's wildlife thrive in the future. Take Action.

Black and white photo of the Minnesota Capitol dome.

Updates from the Capitol

February 19, 2021

The pressure is on for bills to be heard as the first legislative deadline approaches on March 12! Governor Walz’s updated February forecast will be announced next Friday, which will set the tone for budget conversations the rest of session.

Our team is continuing to work hard on behalf of Minnesota’s fore...

February 19, 2021

The pressure is on for bills to be heard as the first legislative deadline approaches on March 12! Governor Walz’s updated February forecast will be announced next Friday, which will set the tone for budget conversations the rest of session.

Our team is continuing to work hard on behalf of Minnesota’s forests and soils! Our forest bonding bill—which would invest in crucial forest management practices—was introduced this week in the House and Senate, with Rep. Todd Lippert and Sen. Dave Senjem as chief authors. If you haven’t yet reached out to your own lawmakers about investing in our forests, you can easily do that here.

Soil health remains a hot topic at the Legislature for a variety of reasons, namely for its importance to water quality, carbon storage and reducing land-use emissions. With such widespread support for soil health initiatives, there are understandably a lot of differences in how to approach these proposals. At The Nature Conservancy, we believe that a strong soil health proposal will include cost-share measures, ambitious yet attainable goals, and input from all necessary stakeholders.

We’re advancing nature’s agenda at the Minnesota Legislature and will continue to be your eyes and ears on the inside! We expect we’ll have more to share on soil health next week but for now, head over to nature.org/soil to start familiarizing yourself with the science. And if you're not signed up for action alerts yet, make sure to do that below!

February 5, 2021

The Minnesota Legislature has been busy this week reviewing Governor Walz’s budget proposal in committee hearings. We are especially excited about the natural climate solutions tools funded in the Governor’s proposal. These tools include tree planting for climate action, clean water and climate resiliency, and sustainable and climate-smart agriculture. Going forward, it will be important to maintain momentum on these proposals, so the legislature adopts them in their budget discussions.

The House bonding committee dedicated two hearings this past week to highlight the intersection of climate change and infrastructure funding. Referencing our recent natural climate solutions report, our Government Relations Manager Stephanie testified in Thursday’s hearing on the important impact nature-based bonding projects can have on Minnesota’s changing climate.

An unresolved issue in the Governor’s budget proposal is how the state will fund Minnesota’s network of Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs). These are critical conservation partners doing on-the-ground work in clean water, and their funding source is unclear in the Governor’s proposal. Check out an opportunity below to speak up in support of stable funding for SWCDs!

January 30, 2021

We were excited to see that the Governor’s proposal included some important natural climate solutions tools: $2.6 million for Minnesota DNR tree planting, $5.5 million for the Board of Water and Soil Resources to help farmers access cover crops, $3 million for a climate program to store more water on land and $3 million to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency for a climate adaptation and resiliency program. While we know that we’ll need much more investment in nature-based solutions to achieve long-term sustainability, this is an important first step and we applaud the Governor for it!

Some items we think are especially important:

Tree Planting for Climate Action

Of the many items included in the Governor’s proposal, we at The Nature Conservancy were especially pleased to see $2.6 million allocated for tree planting, with the explicit goal of storing more carbon in the ground. This represents a big shift in how our state responds to climate change, as many of our lawmakers are starting to realize how natural climate solutions can benefit Minnesota. Plus, tree planting = healthy water! While we know stronger investments will be needed, we’d like to give Walz a virtual high-five for including this important funding in his budget proposal.

Clean Water and Climate Resiliency

We were also pleased to find $3 million in the proposal for a water storage program as severe rain events become more common in our state, and $3 million to help cities plan to be more resilient in the face of climate change. Issues with water quality and quantity are on the rise and we need to leverage nature as a tool for climate resiliency. Leveraging our lands and preparing cities to be ready to handle more stormwater is a big win for Minnesota! We’d like to see these figures increase, but for now, we’re just celebrating this made it into the general fund. We are glad the Governor recognizes the importance of resiliency as Minnesota adapts to climate change.

Sustainable and Climate-Smart Agriculture

We know that in order to get cover crops and other soil health practices on more farms across the state, incentives that make it easier for farmers to adopt practices is crucial. That’s why our team was glad to see $5.5 million proposed for cost-share programs that would incentivize farmers to plant cover crops. We’re especially pleased to see this included in the proposal because we know that soil health practices benefit both water quality and carbon storage—and helps farmers improve their soil.

While a lot can happen between now and the end of the session in May, we are encouraged by these climate-focused proposals and are hopeful our legislators can work together to make a greater investment in Minnesota’s nature a reality.

January 21, 2021

The 2021 Minnesota legislative session began quietly earlier this month, but things are now picking up!

Right now, we know that the legislature’s focus will be on pandemic response and passing a state budget. And we’re hopeful we’ll have a say in how much of that budget can be invested in nature and in our future. Governor Tim Walz is expected to release his proposed state budget early next week, at which point we’ll be digging through the details and looking for investments in natural climate solutions, clean water protection and Forests for the Future. Make sure you’re signed up for alerts below to get the latest info on environmental policy in Minnesota.

December 22, 2020

The year is soon coming to a close and so, too, is the Our Mississippi Our Future campaign. Don’t worry, we’re not going anywhere! But we are thinking bigger for 2021 and the years ahead, and I hope you’ll come along for the ride.

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s the importance of remaining committed and resilient in the face of big challenges. The future that we desire and deserve depends on us getting and staying engaged with the civic process, whether it’s election season or not. And while we recognize we’re living in pretty divisive times, we know that nature has the power to unite us!

We also know that nature has the power to help solve some of our greatest challenges which is why, starting in 2021, you can expect to hear from us about an even wider range of environmental topics and how you can speak up! We hope you’ll stay tuned and join us as we learn about and advocate on behalf of these important issues.

But for now, I hope you’re taking a well-deserved rest. Sit back, relax and reflect on all we accomplished despite a challenging year, because we’ll need more of that energy in 2021. More to come!

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Black and white photo looking up at birds flying in a cloudy sky.
Climate Change Nature is a key part of both climate mitigation and adaptation strategies that will enable people and nature to thrive. © Richard Hamilton Smith

Tackle Climate Change

Climate change is here and already impacting Minnesota communities, lands and waters. And despite our warming winters and severe storms, Minnesota is leading the Midwest through its state emissions reductions targets. We have already reduced emissions by more than 10%— but it’s not enough. We failed to meet our 2015 target, and we’re not on track for 2025, either. The Nature Conservancy is taking firm action to reduce our emissions while helping nature and communities adapt.

Speak Up for Climate Action

Tell elected officials that we need climate action now!

Speak Up

Because nature is our first line of defense against many climate impacts, we are working to create systems that store more carbon through natural processes. We are working to incentivize public and private landowners to use practices that store more carbon. This includes activities like tree planting,  soil health practices on agricultural lands, and protecting and restoring our grasslands, wetlands and peatlands.

We are also encouraging the state to enable greater resiliency through nature-based adaptation. These practices will prepare natural landscapes for climate change, as well as buffering communities from the worst floods, droughts and other climate impacts.

More on Climate Change in MN

  • How is climate change affecting Minnesota?

    Climate change is already having an enormous impact on our waters, lands, wildlife and people. It's showing up in the form of droughts and dying trees, extreme weather and flooding events, and the compounded effects of both in far too many Minnesota waterways. Read more about climate change in Minnesota.

  • What are natural climate solutions?

    Natural climate solutions are conservation, restoration and improved land management actions that increase carbon storage or avoid greenhouse gas emissions in landscapes and wetlands across the globe. Combined with clean energy and other decarbonization efforts, natural climate solutions offer some of our best options in the response to climate change.

  • What is nature-based adaptation?

    Nature-based adaptation (NBA) refers to nature-based tactics to facilitate adaptation in nature for both biodiversity and people who rely on these systems. These can take the form of a rain garden at your neighborhood park or an assisted migration planting in a local forest. Check out a cool example of NBA in this story about climate-proofing our prairies.

Black and white photo of a farm field.
Food & Water How we produce food is currently the #1 threat to nature globally. We must transform food systems to ensure these operations have a positive impact on nature. © Jason Whalen

Speak Up for Sustainable Agriculture Solutions

Let legislators know that investments in our food systems are needed.

Speak Up

Build Sustainable Food Systems

Farming is a proud Minnesota tradition, and it’s important that we protect our farmland and retain our leadership within the industry. Where state funding is required, it is critical that we maximize our return on investment towards protecting our air, water and soil, as well as our communities and agriculture economy.

We’re working with state agencies to develop innovative projects that will improve impaired waters and prevent further degradation, as well as make sure farmers have the resources they need to implement solutions.

We know that soil health improves productivity, water quality, biodiversity and public health outcomes, but many farmers experience financial and technical barriers to implementing these practices. We need lawmakers' help to drive incentives that will improve soil health on agricultural lands.

Dig Into Sustainable Ag in MN

  • What is the current footprint of the agriculture industry?

    More than half of Minnesota's lands are currently in agricultural production, and the vast majority of them don't employ practices that regenerate the health of the soil. That means an outsized risk of erosion and runoff to Minnesota's waters. But it also presents an opportunity to leverage these agricultural landscapes to work better with nature's systems. Learn more about sustainable agriculture in Minnesota.

  • What are soil health practices?

    Practices that sequester carbon, increase organic matter and ultimately improve the biological, physical and chemical function of the soil are generally referred to as soil health practices. These include cover crops, reduced tillage, diversified crop rotation, improved nutrient management and edge-of-field strategies that help farms more efficiently hold water and carbon dioxide.

  • How can we better support farmers and rural communities?

    Agencies like the Board of Water and Soil Resources, National Resources Conservation Service, local soil and water conservation districts and partner efforts like All Acres for Our Water all support farmers and ranchers who want to make their operations more sustainable. We must ensure adequate funding for these important players!

Black and white photo of a wooded shoreline.
Protecting Land and Water Healthy lands and waters across Minnesota fuel our weekends, our economy and our way of life. Let's protect them with all we've got! © Jason Whalen

Speak Up for Land & Water Protection

Let lawmakers know you support Minnesota's public investment in protecting land and water!

Speak Up

Protect Healthy Lands and Waters

Minnesota’s lakes, rivers, forests and grasslands are critical for wildlife habitat, water quality and carbon storage. They're also important for the activities we treasure, such as camping, hunting and birding. 

We know that these resources can’t protect themselves, they need our help! The Nature Conservancy is helping to protect dedicated state investments in natural resources (like the Legacy Amendment), and we're working to increase state investments in natural resources through other funding sources. 

The Nature Conservancy has long been in the business of protecting important natural areas. As Minnesota's climate changes, these places will become even more important as wildlife increasingly rely on these natural highways and neighborhoods to move away from climate threats.

Learn About Protection Work

Actions You Can Take Right Now

  • Stay Informed

    Sign up for action alerts below so you can be in-the-know when important decisions are being made at the Legislature.

  • Talk About the Issues

    Talk to your friends and family about issues that concern you. Chat up a neighbor about local environmental policy. Keep speaking up!

  • Learn and Share

    Share this webpage and action alerts with your friends. Follow updates from the Legislature and help keep others informed. Be a trusted source of information in your community!

  • Talk to Lawmakers

    It's their job to represent your community's interests. Give 'em a call and let them know what's important to you. You might be surprised with a thank-you note back!

With great privilege comes great responsibility. In order to preserve our lands, waters and our ways of life in Minnesota, we must be willing to speak up for nature. And we want to make it easy for you to speak up! Sign up for alerts below so you never miss a thing.

So You Know When to Speak Up...

Sign up to receive action alerts from TNC in Minnesota so you can stay in the know about issues you care about. We’ll send you timely alerts about what’s happening at the Capitol and how you can speak up for nature!