A person holding a cluster of pine needles between their two fingers.
White pine White pine and white cedar are increasingly favored in Minnesota for their climate resiliency. © Uche Iroegbu
Stories in Minnesota

Advocate: Use Your Outside Voice!

Learn about conservation policy in Minnesota, plus how you can get involved by speaking up for nature.

Get started by exploring the guide below!

Our Charge

In Minnesota, we enjoy gifts like abundant freshwater, rich diversity of species and ecosystems and productive working lands. We also have a tremendous responsibility to respect and care for the nature that sustains us so that it may sustain future generations as well. That’s why we’re using our outside voices to speak up for nature with the Minnesota State Legislature—and we invite you to join us!

Using Policy to Advance Conservation

The Nature Conservancy in Minnesota advances policy solutions that work for people and nature. As with our conservation work, our policy priorities are directly informed by the best science available. 

Science drives how we plan and implement conservation and informs our policy and public funding recommendations. Working alongside partners in business and industry, and people from all walks of life, including Indigenous communities, Native Nations and governments at the local, state and national levels, we take a collaborative approach to advancing conservation through policy.

We work across borders, aisles and sectors to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. Our nonpartisan approach, commitment to science and collaboration with local partners and colleagues around the state will help us realize our vision of a world where nature and people thrive together. But we can’t achieve that future alone. We need your help!

Get to know our policy priorities in Minnesota, learn how you can use your voice to make a difference and start speaking up for nature.

View of MN capitol building from front yard.
State Capitol The Minnesota State Capitol building, as seen from the front yard. © Joe Ferrer/iStock

Updates from the Capitol

May 24, 2024

The Minnesota Legislature ended its 2024 session at midnight on May 20, the constitutional deadline for adjournment. While the final hours of session left some issues unresolved, there were still some wins for nature this year. 

Spending from the state’s dedicated environmental funds received bipartisan support, with lawmakers approving $193 million from the Outdoor Heritage Fund, $80 million from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund and $25 million from the Clean Water Fund. Together, nearly $300 million in investment from dedicated environmental funds will go toward protecting and restoring wildlife habitat, securing clean water and delivering results for people and climate.

Native rough fish received new protections to ensure their populations can be managed in a way that’s similar to how the state has managed other sport fish. This means that native fish species like gar, buffalo and bowfin will now have protections like walleye, northern pike and other iconic Minnesota fish.

Some essential investments in reforestation and tree seedling production fell short, but we did see progress on investing in forests. Legislators passed funding for community tree planting, removed limits on seedling production at the state tree nursery and dedicated resources to study the feasibility of reopening another tree nursery.

Unfortunately, lawmakers were not able to pass a capital investment bill through both the House and Senate in time. A capital investment bill is typically passed in even-numbered years and can be used to fund long-term projects like reforestation and land protection. We hope to see legislators revisiting some of these missed opportunities in the coming year.

April 10, 2024

Good news: the House and Senate passed legislation to appropriate $79 million from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund! This bill followed the recommendations of the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota’s Resources, the council that administers the fund, and will go toward projects around the state that benefit our land, water and wildlife.

Since passing the unofficial deadline for all non-spending legislation to advance (March 22), legislators have largely spent the last two weeks looking toward a bonding bill and supplemental budget spending.

Following the February revenue forecast from the state budget office, legislators have been considering options for spending surplus dollars in dedicated environmental funds, like the Outdoor Heritage Fund and the Clean Water Fund. Both of the councils that hear proposals for how to spend these funds have endorsed recommendations for spending this surplus and we have been encouraging legislators to follow these recommendations.

With five weeks left of the regular session, we anticipate the legislature’s focus to be on assembling a bonding bill, allocating surplus funding and sending bills to the Governor for approval.

March 26, 2024

We have now passed the date by which all non-spending legislation must be advanced in the House and Senate, leaving legislators with a narrowed slate of bills to consider. Since this self-imposed legislative deadline did not include spending bills, many appropriations bills are still in the early stages. 

Legislative leaders made progress on identifying spending targets late last week, announcing they had reached an agreement with the governor to spend $477 million of surplus general funds, of which $17 million has been carved out for environment and natural resources. Committees also heard presentations on proposed appropriations from dedicated environmental funds like the Clean Water Fund and the Outdoor Heritage Fund.

The first break of the session begins on Wednesday, March 27 and lasts until Tuesday, April 2. After the break, legislators are expected to dive into the bonding bill and consider a long list of proposals that would fund long-term capital investment projects around Minnesota.

March 18, 2024

The legislature has been picking up speed in the last two weeks as we approach March 22, their self-imposed deadline for any non-spending bills to have had a favorable hearing in at least one of each of the House and Senate committees. The bill to allocate funding from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund was passed by the House on March 7, which is a historically early passage of this appropriations bill. It awaits action by the Senate. 

Recently, legislators have brought forward bills to support the conservation of native prairie. A bill allowing the Department of Natural Resources to purchase conservation easements to protect native prairie, which TNC testified in support of, passed the House and also awaits action by the Senate. TNC staff also testified in support of a bill to make a small tweak to state statute that will enable greater use of conservation grazing on grasslands owned by nonprofit conservation organizations.

In addition, a bill that defines and protects native rough fish advanced in both House and Senate committees. This is the first comprehensive effort in the nation to extend the same protections of game fish to native rough fish, a category of fish covering 26 species native to Minnesota, resulting from a months-long work group process that TNC was engaged in.

In the latest revenue forecast, dedicated conservation funds—namely, the Clean Water Fund and the Outdoor Heritage Fund—were revealed to have additional money available for projects. The councils that oversee each fund made updated recommendations to the legislature on how to spend their respective surpluses. 

March 5, 2024

The much-anticipated revenue forecast was released last week, showing an increase in Minnesota’s expected budget surplus, which is now projected to be $3.7 billion. However, with a potential deficit projected as soon as 2027, lawmakers are unlikely to spend the entirety of this year’s surplus. It remains to be seen how this increased surplus will affect capital investment spending this session. Legislative leaders have already indicated they expect to spend as much as $1 billion on a capital investment bill, some of which may come from this one-time surplus.

At this stage of the legislative session, legislators have introduced many of their priority bills and are using committee hearings to discuss these bills and receive updates on a wide range of issues. Recently, several committees have held various hearings on water quality and pollution, dedicated state funding for the environment, wetland protection and more. Some bills, like this year’s appropriation from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund, have already been sent to the floor in both chambers to be voted upon by members.

February 22, 2024

Minnesota’s 2024 legislative session kicked off last week, so be sure you are ready to speak up for nature and get up to speed on this year’s session! Legislators focus on passing a two-year budget for state spending in odd-numbered years. In even-numbered years, lawmakers turn their attention more toward policy issues than fiscal needs—except for a special type of spending called capital investment. The Nature Conservancy will be advocating for a capital investment bill that addresses needs related to forest management and tree planting as well as the protection of sensitive ecosystems. 

Staff from The Nature Conservancy testified to a legislative committee last week to highlight how the Outdoor Heritage Fund—which is dedicated state funding for conservation authorized through the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment—is being put to work in southeast Minnesota. In another committee hearing, our staff explained the value of native prairie and the urgency of protecting what remains in Minnesota. In the weeks ahead, legislators will continue to introduce a slate of new bills—more to come!

February 1, 2024

With less than two weeks to go until the start of the 2024 legislative session, we invite you to get up to speed on the issues. The Minnesota Legislature works on a two-year cycle, and after passing a two-year budget in 2023, legislators will be focused this year on considering policy changes and enacting funding for capital projects. The capital budget—also known as the bonding package—is a mechanism to fund long-term projects for the betterment of Minnesota. We believe that this is an opportunity to invest in the health of our forests and the protection of sensitive habitat.

On the 2024 Agenda

  • Protect Healthy Land & Water

    We’re facing dual threats from the climate crisis and extreme loss of the variety of life on earth, and we don’t stand a chance without clean water and healthy land.

  • Tackle Climate Change

    Climate change isn’t a distant threat—it is happening now. The world saw its warmest year in recorded history in 2023, and Minnesota is feeling the effects.

  • Provide Food & Water Sustainably

    Food demand is expected to increase by more than 50% in the next 30 years. We can meet the challenge by working with farmers to improve soil health and farm productivity.

Protect Healthy Land & Water

The Nature Conservancy is helping to protect dedicated state investments in natural resources and we're working to increase state investments in natural resources through other funding sources.

TNC has long been in the business of protecting important natural areas, and this work has never been more vital. As Minnesota's climate changes, these places will become even more critical as wildlife come to increasingly rely on these natural highways and neighborhoods as they move away from climate threats. These places are also critically important because of the immense amounts of carbon that they can capture and store through natural regeneration.

Learn About Protection

  • Established in 1988 by the voters of Minnesota, the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund provides funding for the state’s air, water, land, fish and wildlife through revenue generated by the Minnesota State Lottery. Since the early 1990s, this fund has generated more than $900 million, funding more than 1,700 conservation projects across Minnesota. Some of Minnesotans’ favorite conservation programs, like Lawns to Legumes and the Voyageurs Wolf Project, rely on funding from the ENRTF. Last year, the state legislature passed a bill to give voters a chance to extend the fund’s constitutional dedication by voting to protect it in the 2024 election before it expires in 2025.

  • A lot of people are surprised to learn that nearly 2,800 of Minnesota's bodies of water are considered impaired by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. The Mississippi River headwaters area is one of special concern for The Nature Conservancy, as this region provides drinking water for about 2.5 million Minnesotans. We’re also working to improve the health of Lake Superior’s tributaries by planting millions of trees in coordination with conservation partners.

  • In 2008, voters in Minnesota passed the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment, which continues to provide supplemental funding for clean water, healthy lands, parks and trails as well as the arts. Explore places we've protected using Outdoor Heritage funding through the Legacy Amendment.

  • Biodiversity underpins every aspect of life on our planet. The food we eat, the air we breathe, our climate—essentially, everything that makes Earth inhabitable—all depends on the interplay of millions of organisms in diverse ecosystems, which have learned to thrive and interact over billions of years. Learn more about biodiversity by watching this video.

Tackle Climate Change

Nature is our first line of defense against many climate impacts. That’s why we are working to create systems that store more carbon through natural processes and improve lives in the process. We’re working to incentivize public and private landowners to use practices that store more carbon, like planting trees, improving soil health on agricultural lands and protecting and restoring our grasslands, wetlands and peatlands.

The Nature Conservancy is also encouraging state leaders to enable greater resiliency through nature-based adaptation. These are practices that will prepare nature for climate change, as well as buffer communities from the worst floods, droughts and other climate impacts.


More on Climate Change in MN

  • 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.

  • Natural climate solutions are conservation, restoration and improved land management actions that increase carbon storage, avoid greenhouse gas emissions and help nature and people adapt to climate change. Combined with clean energy and other decarbonization efforts, natural climate solutions offer some of our best options to respond to climate change.

  • Nature can provide up to a third of the solution to global climate change. It's inexpensive, scalable and available to us now. But perhaps most importantly, it's an essential part of our climate response. We will not be able to meet global climate targets without nature, which is why we need to start investing in nature-based solutions now. Learn more about nature-based solutions by watching this video.

  • Reforestation, restoring wetlands and planting cover crops are just a few of the ways Minnesotans can help draw down carbon emissions through nature. Our farms, forests, grasslands and other landscapes can help mitigate as much as 26 million metric tons of CO2e. In addition to natural climate solutions, nature-based adaptation strategies like building rain gardens and planting trees where people live can also improve the resilience and quality of life for communities living near climate threats. Read more in this report.

  • In order to effectively tackle climate change in Minnesota, we need an all-of-the-above strategy. Eliminating our dependence on fossil fuels and moving toward renewable energy sources is an essential step. It’s also not enough on its own. We need to draw down existing carbon in the atmosphere to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, and nature can help us get there. Through photosynthesis, actions as simple as planting more trees can help us reduce carbon in the atmosphere and start taking climate action now.

Provide Food & Water Sustainably

Farming is a proud Minnesota tradition, and it’s important that we protect farm productivity and retain our state’s leadership within the industry. When making investments in our ag economy, it is critical to maximize benefits to society like protecting our air, water and soil, as well as our communities and the health of the people who live here.

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

Increased soil health improves productivity, water quality, biodiversity, carbon storage 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 and support Minnesota farmers who are doing right by nature.


  • About half of Minnesota's lands are currently in agricultural production, and most are not managed with practices that regenerate the health of the soil. That means an outsized risk of erosion and runoff to Minnesota's waters, as well as greenhouse gas emissions due to carbon released from the soil. But this also presents an opportunity to leverage agricultural landscapes to work better with nature's systems. Learn more about regenerative agriculture in Minnesota.

  • 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.

  • Agencies like the Board of Water and Soil Resources, Natural Resources Conservation Service and local soil and water conservation districts (SWCDs) all support farmers and ranchers who want to make their operations more sustainable. The emergence of carbon markets and other ecosystem service markets can also help farmers by compensating them for their investments in nature. But for these strategies to be scalable, we must ensure they receive adequate and stable funding.

  • Food production has altered our planet more than any other human activity. It accounts for a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions and 70% of all freshwater usage. And it is perhaps the single greatest cause of biodiversity loss. But it also provides livelihoods for more than a third of the world’s population. A regenerative food system takes us beyond mere sustainability toward positive growth that benefits our planet and the billions of farmers, fishers, ranchers and others who work to provide our food—without harming the health and livelihoods of rural communities and communities of color. Learn more about regenerative agriculture by watching this video.

If we want to preserve our lands, waters and our ways of life in Minnesota, we must 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.