Stories in Minnesota

Trees. Water. Soil.

Nature and Climate Solutions for Minnesota

Illustration of trees, water, soil and various wildlife.
Trees. Water. Soil. A campaign by The Nature Conservancy. ©

Nature and Climate Change

In Minnesota, where climate change is becoming evident through our warming winters and more intense rainstorms, we have a golden opportunity to lead on climate change. And we can do it with technology that already exists and can be deployed right now: nature.

Through simple actions like planting cover crops, changing the way we manage forests and installing community rain gardens, Minnesotans can make a big impact for people and nature.

In order to meet the pace and scale that effectively tackling climate change requires, we need everyone to pitch in. The good news is that we already have the blueprint—developed by Mother Nature herself!

Our Climate Action Toolkit

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    Some of our biggest opportunities to make a difference in Minnesota lie in our forests. Avoided forest conversion, tree planting and improved forest management are all practices that demonstrate how trees can help us fight climate change.

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    As heavy rain events become more common, flooding and stormwater management are increasingly important issues. Tactics like rain gardens and retention ponds are essential tools to help Minnesota tackle water management in the climate fight.

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    One of our biggest untapped opportunities likely lies beneath the surface. Minnesota’s farms can lead the way with soil health practices that improve yields, clean the water and capture carbon from the air.

Two hands holding several pine seedlings, to be planted.
Reforestation One of our biggest opportunities, both globally and locally, is the reforestation of areas where forests have been lost. © David Bowman

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Four people standing in a farm field planted with cover crops.
Soil Health for Climate Action Minnesota’s farms can lead the way with soil health practices that improve yields, clean the water and capture carbon from the air. © Jason Whalen / Fauna Creative
Headshot of Sawyer Scherer, wearing a red cap and orange vest.
Sawyer Scherer Lead Forester at UPM Blandin Forestry © Dudley Edmondson

The story of forestry in Minnesota is, in many respects, the story of the white spruce. The story can be told and understood through the history of UPM Blandin.

UPM Blandin, Minnesota’s largest industrial forest owner has been in the land management business in Minnesota for more than 100 years. Sawyer Scherer, their forest ecologist says UPM initially took the same approach as a lot of old-school paper mills: buy land, cut trees, sell products made from those trees. Today, the old model is considered outdated, and Blandin has shifted to what they call Smart Forestry.

Blandin now takes a significantly different approach as they and others in the forest products industry have had to grapple with how trees respond to a warming climate, changing weather and the arrival of multiple invasive insects and new diseases. With their shift toward increasing diversity and resilience, UPM is working to ensure they manage their forestland with climate change in mind.

Sawyer's story, continued...

Headshot of Kenya McKnight Ahad, wearing a beige suit and white scarf.
Kenya McKnight Ahad CEO of the Black Women's Wealth Alliance and active member at the Masjid An-Nur 'Eco-Mosque' © Alora Jones/TNC

A woman of faith and action, Kenya McKnight Ahad is truly a leader in her community. When her beloved Minneapolis mosque was experiencing flooding from Minnesota’s increased heavy rainfalls, she didn’t waste time. Kenya knew there were nature-based solutions that could help alleviate the water issues her mosque was experiencing, so she got right to work.

McKnight Ahad saw the flooding as an environmental justice issue and used her experience in transportation policy and her professional contacts to develop a plan to address it. Working with Masjid An-Nur's Imam, Makram El-Amin, she led the implementation of a new stormwater system that is also beautifying the neighborhood.

Kenya's story, continued...

Headshot of John Reed, wearing a white cap and blue jacket.
john reed Angus cattle rancher in Hardwick, MN. © Dudley Edmondson

When John Reed began to think about having his own business, he acquired land and started raising cattle. He wanted to grow his herd and business and share it with his son Jake, but confronted obstacles ranchers often face: cows need a lot of space to graze and grow; acquiring, maintaining and owning land is expensive and on its own, a cow operation can’t produce enough revenue to offset the cost of land acquisition and ownership. 

In order to fill the gap, John started looking into conservation easements as a way of expanding their overall operation and protecting their additional grassland for the future.

John's story, continued...

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    3.6 M

    The number of reforestable acres across Minnesota.

  •  Water icon from the Trees. Water. Soil. logo lockup.


    Average annual precipitation increase in the past 100 years.

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    26 M

    How many metric tons of CO2 we can draw down with nature.

Let's Invest in Nature's Potential

Despite all that we know about the power of nature to help us both mitigate and adapt to climate change; we still are not employing nature at the scale and pace needed to meet our climate goals. We know that reducing emissions alone will not get us to where we need to be. We must also begin the work of sequestering carbon from our atmosphere and storing it—in forests, on farms and within our soils.

As we tackle climate change in our corner of the world, we must look at more of our most promising solutions if we are to meet the task at hand—including nature! According to scientific research, nature has the power to contribute 30% of the global solution to climate change. We already have the tools we need to get started, now we need them to be deployed rapidly and at scale.

Two young people planting a tree on a slope in front of a fence.
Tree Planting Increasing tree cover in places where people live is one step we can take toward improving people's lives in the face of climate change. © Caroline Yang

Ways You Can Help

  • Have a Connected Conversation

    Even though more than seven in 10 Americans believe climate change is happening and six in 10 are worried about it, two-thirds of Americans rarely, if ever, talk about climate change with the people they care about. Let's Talk Climate.

  • Pledge to Speak Up

    In order to preserve our lands, waters and our ways of life in Minnesota, we must be willing to speak up for nature. Join us! Speak Up for Nature.

  • Share Our Report

    Our recent report on nature and climate offers an in-depth look at Minnesota’s multiple pathways to climate resilience. Read up on nature’s potential in our state and share with your nature-loving friends! Download and Share.

Use Your Outside Voice!

Ready to start speaking up? Join our advocacy list to learn about timely opportunities to speak up for natural climate solutions and nature-based adaptation strategies at the state level.