Do You Remember When Turkeys Were Rare?

Do you remember when it was rare to see a turkey in Minnesota? I do. When I started my conservation career about 30 years ago, they were few and far between. Now, they’ve become a big nuisance.

“Turkey” is my theme for this year’s legislative session. Never in my 30 years’ experience have the results for conservation and the environment been so poor. Never. And, there was plenty of gravy for the special interests who came to feast on this turkey.

I don’t recall the election past being about subverting the will of Minnesota voters and shifting dedicated water clean-up funds to government salaries. Did I miss the promises to cut residents out of permitting processes for mining? How are we better off with the DNR prohibited from regulating lead shot…when there are effective alternatives? And, what has been so wrong about DNR wetland replacement decisions regarding mining – that they back-dated a law 26 years to 1991 to cover it up!?

I’ve heard that the 1% are getting ahead faster than most of us. That carried through into environmental permitting: companies with the means to pay to get to the head of the permitting line, can, to the detriment of other permit applicants. They also have the right to write their own Environmental Impact Statements…and keep their data and assumptions private. Don’t even ask: We won’t tell. Cities have up to sixteen years to comply with new clean water standards. Kicking the clean water can down the road.

Solar, wind and energy conservation programs were cut or repealed entirely. Residents who get their power from municipal or cooperative power companies lost the regulatory oversight from the state, leaving them open to excessive fees to hook up their solar or wind installations. Existing challenges to such charges were dismissed by law. Representative Gruenhagen from Glencoe, Minnesota, in a floor speech that was widely shared, said Global Warming, was “Global Lying” and that it was a United Nations plot.

We tied our hands when it comes to pesticide applications – Minnesota can’t require a “demonstrated need” before use of certain pesticides. Bees and other pollinators are to be researched with a little extra money, but we’ve already eliminated one possible way to help them. Finally, the rarest of wetlands, calcareous fens (groundwater-fed wetlands, with many rare plants) are now on a “Commissioner’s Choice” list. Because one farmer wants to irrigate corn near a fen and his Senator is in his pocket, our protective law dating back a quarter century is now permissive. A future DNR Commissioner may allow “seasonal drawdowns” of groundwater in fens…so that we can have a few more acres of crops. More “turkey trimmings” (and a few small edible bits) can be found in my full legislative report on our website: www.mnikes.org.

I have indigestion from this Turkey of a session, and so does Minnesota’s environment. We are moving backwards on our promise of clean water and our need to transition to clean energy. We are doing nothing to improve our state parks. Did I mention we barely avoided a freeze on further acquisition of public wildlife lands?

When you are out and about this summer in Minnesota’s Great Outdoors, look around you. Do you want to pass this along to your children and their children? If so, please tell every elected official that represents you: No More Turkeys!