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!
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Our Climate Action Toolkit
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.
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.
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 is a Solution
As we seek to tackle our biggest environmental challenges, we would be wise to remember that nature is not just a victim of climate change—she’s also part of the solution! In addition to providing a powerful way to capture carbon, investing in nature can help us protect Minnesota’s fish and wildlife, and safeguard our communities as we brace for climate impacts.
A Solution With Multiple Benefits
Investing in nature's potential is essential for navigating our way out of the climate crisis. It also comes with some other compelling benefits. Here are just a few:
As severe weather events become more commonplace in our state, so too does property damage as well as impacts on human health. Urban tree planting, retention ponds and rain gardens can not only beautify urban spaces but also make them more habitable in the face of climate change.
Quality of Life
Of all the wonderful things nature does for us, the most notable benefit might also be the most intangible. Between the benefits listed above and the improved psychological outcomes of being around nature, we have plenty of reasons to invest more in nature’s potential. Put plainly, nature makes our lives better.
Minnesotans Leading the Way
Take a page from these Minnesotans who are already demonstrating nature’s power to tackle the big issues of our time.
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.
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.
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.
The number of reforestable acres across Minnesota.
Average annual precipitation increase in the past 100 years.
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.
We Need All Hands on Deck
All hands as in…every last one of us. Tackling climate change will not be a small or easy feat, but many hands will make the lift a little lighter. And we all have something to contribute to the climate fight!
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.
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.