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. © Artwork by Blackbird Revolt

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!

Illustration of a person planting a tree.

Speak Up for Climate Action

Join our advocacy email list to learn about timely opportunities to speak up for nature in Minnesota. We'll keep you informed of how nature is doing at the legislature, and let you know when you can help by speaking up! Sign up for action alerts.

Our Climate Action Toolkit

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


    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.

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


    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.

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


    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.

Nature-Based Solutions in Minnesota

In addition to reducing a significant portion of Minnesota’s greenhouse gas emissions, nature can make us more resilient to climate change. Explore all of our opportunity areas below!

Nature can offset up to 26 million metric tons of carbon in Minnesota. That's about 15% of our emissions and equivalent to taking 5.6 million cars off the road.
Cover crops could be planted to cover bare soils across 13.6 million acres in Minnesota, which would cut CO2 emissions by up to 6 million metric tons per year.
Protecting and restoring floodplains across 200,000 acres in Minnesota could save us up to $5 in flood damages for every $1 invested.
Reduced tillage (no-till and low-till farming) can cut Minnesota's CO2 emissions by up to 6 million metric tons if implemented at scale across 5.6 million Minnesota acres.
Planting trees in our forests, cities and neighborhoods could cut CO2 emissions by up to 8 million metric tons per year if implemented at scale across 3.6 million acres in Minnesota.
Rain gardens, which are installed/planted to manage stormwater, can filter up to 80% of pollution from rainwater runoff with the average garden filtering up to 36,000 gallons of water per year.
Minnesotans could protect up to 50,000 acres of existing forests and in doing so, store up to 50,000 metric tons of CO2 per year.
 Protecting and restoring native grasslands across Minnesota’s 200,000 available acres could cut our CO2 emissions by up to 60,000 metric tons per year.
 Restoring and improving the way we manage forests could help us withstand and adapt to climate change if implemented at scale across 4.39 million acres in Minnesota.
 Protecting and restoring wetlands in Minnesota could cut up to 1 million metric tons of CO2 per year if implemented at scale across 1.1 million acres.
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 Matt Tentis, wearing a blue shirt that reads: White Barn Acres.
Matt Tentis Co-Owner, White Barn Acres LLC. © Dudley Edmondson

Matt Tentis, White Barn Acres LLC

Along with his brother Seth and their mother Kathy, Matt operates White Barn Acres, LLC, a 300-acre farm near Kellogg, in southeastern Minnesota. The White Barn Acres farm lies within the Mississippi River Valley and includes a wooded area and a stream that connects to the Zumbro River.

Farming runs in the family; Matt’s father and uncle were farmers too and raised dairy cattle, pigs and turkeys. Over time, they transitioned to corn and soybeans. The Tentis family now grows corn and soybeans and raises cattle. And they've made some additional changes, like switching no-till system and incorporating cover crops. These changes have not only helped with the management of the farm, they've also helped improve water quality and store more carbon on the farm.

In addition to doing right by the environment, Matt and Seth have also learned that switching to regenerative farming practices helps keep the farm profitable by eliminating the need for certain inputs and saving them time in the fields.

Mission and values are central to how White Barn Acres operates. Their values influence their decisions about no-till and cover crops, as well as how they manage land they rent from other landowners. Over time, as a result of no-till and other practices, White Barn Acres has seen their soil health improve.

Matt's story, continued...

Mississippi River Green Team crew member planting understory plants.
Mississippi River Green Team The Mississippi River Green Team is a two-year youth employment program aimed at diversifying the environmental workforce. © Dudley Edmondson

Mississippi River Green Team

In Minneapolis, the Mississippi River Green Team works to improve the urban watershed through green infrastructure projects and develop future environmental leaders. The Green Team, a group made up of about 18 high-schoolers, is a two-year conservation employment program jointly managed by the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board

Green infrastructure, which includes projects like rain gardens, bioswales and plantings, facilitates the absorption of water into the ground so it can be used by plants instead of going immediately into the river.

The program was designed to encourage Green Team members to consider environmental jobs among their career options. In addition to working on summer projects that improve parks and benefit the watershed, Green Team members learn about environmental careers and gain valuable job experience.

The Green Team's story, continued...

Kevin DuPuis headshot.
Kevin DuPuis Tribal Chairman for the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. © Dudley Edmondson

Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa

Fond du Lac doesn't manage their forests, they're in relationship with them — a relationship that is foundational to their culture and ways of life. Their approach to the land is based in the concept that trees and other plants preceded humans in the order of creation. As an expression of their relationship with the land, the Fond du Lac Band act as stewards, with responsibilities not only to plants and animals, but also to their ancestors. Kevin DuPuis, the Band's Tribal chairman, underscores that there is no distinction between the Tribe and its land.

As part of the Band's climate action plan, they have taken steps to reduce their carbon footprint, install renewable energy projects and enroll their forests in the National Indian Carbon Coalition. In addition to the carbon project, the Fond du Lac Band manages other forestland on which they promote sustainable forest management practices that help protect and encourage forest regeneration.

Fond du Lac's story, continued...

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

    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.

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

    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.

  • Speak Up for Nature-Based Solutions

    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.