-Lieutenant Governor Yvonne Prettner Solon during her trip to Germany
This week, Lieutenant Governor Yvonne Pretter Solon is leading a 16-member delegation in Germany, joined by Iowa’s Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds. The delegation is made up of experts from Minnesota and Iowa that will study Germany’s energy and power systems, in the search for finding more energy efficient methods that could aid in creating and maintaining a more sustainable Minnesota.
What is it About?
A group of experts from Minnesota and Iowa are in Germany this week learning about energy solutions that could help Minnesota. The trip is organized by the University of Minnesota’s Center for German and European Studies together with Germany’s Federal Ministry of Economics and Germany’s Foreign office. The group will hear from both Germany’s economics and environment ministries in hopes to learn more about their renewable energy projects.
With summer officially underway in Minnesota, the Department of Natural Resources is offering residents a chance to learn the ropes of camping and climbing through their introductory “I Can Camp!” and “I Can Climb!” course offerings at Minnesota State Parks throughout the summer.
The “I Can!” program series is organized by the Parks and Trails division of the DNR as a way to introduce young families to the many opportunities that Minnesota offers for outdoor recreation. Beyond their camping and climbing programs, the “I Can!” series also includes lessons in fishing, paddling, and archery.
While all of these courses will be available at Minnesota state parks throughout the season, those interested in camping and climbing can benefit from combined weekend courses being offered in late June at Blue Mounds and Interstate parks.
In seeking new ways to save people and the state money, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) will use a permit already employed by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) to meet the requirements of MPCA Clean Water Act permit.
The MPCA and the DNR are working together to make sure that pesticide discharges to waters are controlled in order to protect aquatic life and water quality. During the permit development process, the MPCA found it could continue to protect the environment and reduce permit fees by using the DNR’s already employed Aquatic Plant Management permit that would also meet the requirements of the federal Clean Water Act and the MPCA’s Pesticide General Permit. You can read more on MPCA’s efforts to control water quality in the state here: http://www.pca.state.mn.us/index.php/water/index.html
The MPCA and DNR’s reform of this permit will save more than $1200 up front and another $345 annually for more than 180 permit holders representing thousands of Minnesotans. The estimated cost savings to the state are $150,000 annually.
Today, Governor Dayton will lead a delegation on a ten-day trade mission to China, traveling to Beijing, Shanghai and Xian (the capital of Shaanxi Province) for market and industry briefings, business match-making events, networking events and meetings with key U.S. and Chinese government officials. The 50-member group of business, industry, education and government leaders will attend market and industry briefings, networking events, and meetings with key U.S. and Chinese officials.
The delegation will also host multiple receptions for top Chinese government officials and business executives to showcase Minnesota companies and export industries, as well as promote the state as an ideal destination for direct investment by China. Minnesota has had an official relationship with China since signing the sister-state agreement with Shaanxi Province in 1982.
As the trip unfolds, the Governor’s office will be covering the delegation in a special blog series that explores how trade missions foster new relationships via commerce, agriculture, trade, and the environment. You can get daily updates on the delegation by signing up for our e-mail list, checking back on the blog, or following Governor Dayton on Twitter and Facebook. We will showcase highlights of the delegation, highlight our sister-province relationship, and post photos of the Governor’s meetings across the state. We hope that you will travel along with us as the Minnesota delegation embarks on its trade mission across China.
Governor Dayton and his administration are always looking for ways to help farms and businesses prosper in Minnesota. One of the simple but really effective tools the Minnesota Department of Agriculture makes available is a Directory of Minnesota Organic Farms.
It’s clear that organic food has gone beyond fad to a mainstream choice for many consumers, and we want to help Minnesota’s organic farms and food companies capitalize on this interest. Organic food (and even organic feed for animals) must contain organic ingredients and here in Minnesota we grow a lot of these ingredients. Our 700+ organic farms raise organic corn, wheat, oats, barley, rye, flax, soybeans, sunflowers, milk, eggs, beef, eggs, chickens, fruits and vegetables, and just about anything else you can think of. To make it easier for Minnesota’s organic food companies to use organic ingredients in their products, the Directory of Minnesota Organic Farms was created. It lists farmers who sell in quantity to “intermediate buyers” such as food companies, restaurants, grocery stores, brokers, etc. The buyers can look up the farmer by product (“blue corn” for example), or by county, if they are looking for farmers close to their manufacturing facility or store. The directory is available in print and online at www.mda.state.mn.us/organic
Governor Dayton has proclaimed this week, May 20-26, to be Emerald Ash Borer Awareness Week in Minnesota. Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) is an invasive species of insect that has killed millions of ash trees in North America. It is not native to the U.S., but was discovered in Michigan in 2002; in 2009, the first Minnesota case of EAB was found in Ramsey County. It has since been found in the counties of Houston, Hennepin, and Winona.
The biggest risk of spreading EAB comes from people moving firewood or other ash tree products with EAB or EAB larvae inside. In order to help prevent the spread of EAB throughout Minnesota and beyond, you should try to use only local firewood, and you should avoid transporting firewood if possible. In order to prevent the spread of this destructive species, the Department of Agriculture has prohibited the movement of ash trees, ash limbs and branches, ash logs or untreated ash lumber with bark attached, firewood from hardwood trees, and uncomposted wood chips and ash bark chips greater than one inch in two of three dimensions from the affected counties. More tips on preventing the spread of EAB can be found at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture website.
You should also watch for signs that ash trees on your property are infested: heavy woodpecker activity, S-shaped tunnels under the bark, dead branches in the top canopy of the tree, and D-shaped exit holes approximately 1/8 inch in diameter are all signs of EAB presence in a tree. If you suspect a tree is infested, you can follow procedures for seeking treatment or removal of the tree from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website.
Over the course of the last several years, the Metropolitan Council has transformed itself into a leaner, greener government agency. Metro Transit’s “Go Greener” campaign has been the most visible facet of the Council’s transformation, but Metro Transit’s efforts are only a few of the agency’s award winning green initiatives.
The Metropolitan Council’s Environmental Services Division, responsible for handling waste water in the Metro area, is leading the way in making the Metropolitan Council a greener agency. The division has reduced its energy consumption by cleaning equipment more regularly, replacing old equipment with new, energy efficient equipment, and exploring ways to use the heat released during the treatment process for energy. In addition, Xcel Energy has recognized the Environmental Services Division with a Gold Award for achieving the highest electrical savings of all the utility’s large commercial and industrial customers in Minnesota between January 2010 and June 2011.
Located on 53,000 acres of forest and grassland in Central Minnesota, Camp Ripley is more than just the primary training facility for the Minnesota National Guard. With over 125 different bird species, 600 plant species, and a thriving deer population, Camp Ripley is also an important nature reserve. The National Guard has won numerous awards for its environmental preservation at Camp Ripley, including a new environmental award. To celebrate this award and highlight its most important initiatives, Camp Ripley held an Earth Day celebration on Friday.
Though Camp Ripley is primarily a training facility for Minnesota’s National Guard, environmental preservation has been a complementary function for decades. Camp Ripley incorporates their environmental mission into military training exercises; for example, exercises that track deer populations, locate tracked animals, and identify land in need of rehabilitation allow trainees to develop essential skills while promoting effective land preservation. Camp Ripley selectively harvests timber both to create space for military vehicle maneuvers and to maintain a healthy ecosystem. These trees then go on to provide a source of wood fiber for alternative fuel research.
More than one billion people now participate in Earth Day activities each year, making it the largest civic observance in the world. Before this year’s Earth Day on April 22, check out these tips from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to participate and live a healthier and less expensive lifestyle all year round:
Try composting. You can convert organic wastes — yard trimmings, leaves and kitchen scraps — into a dark, crumbly mixture that you can use to improve your garden soil and reduce your use of fertilizer and water. Learn how to start composting today!
Recycling is not just for cans and bottles anymore. Did you know you can recycle mattresses? Holiday lights? Carpet? To learn how you can recycle unusual materials, keep them out of landfills, and benefit Minnesota's economy and environment at the same time, go to http://www.recyclemoreminnesota.org.
Challenge yourself to carry a reusable bag on your next five shopping trips. Over 12 billion barrels of oil are used each year just to make plastic bags.
Help keep Minnesota’s waterways clean and safe. Never dump oils, fertilizers, or other hazardousfluids down the drain or outside. Instead, find a nearby hazardous waste facility. Many will dispose of your hazardous wastes free of charge.
Taking small steps to be green can really add up. If every Minnesotan adopts just a couple of green strategies it will go a long way to keeping our environment green and clean for generations to come.
Wildfire Prevention Week is April 15-21, and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is reminding Minnesotans to take steps to help prevent wildfires. Recent rain and snow throughout the state has temporarily decreased Minnesota’s wildlife danger rating, but during our ongoing drought wildfires remain a threat across the state.
“Most wildfires occur in the spring, between the time when snow melts and vegetation turns green,” said Larry Himanga, DNR’s wildfire prevention coordinator. “This spring’s wildfire season started earlier than normal and fires have been burning with greater intensity. Severe fire conditions have put a strain on our wildland firefighters and fire departments.”
Every year, DNR firefighters respond to more than an average 1,500 wildfires each year. In Minnesota, 98 percent of wildfires are caused by people, and the number one reason is escaped debris-burning fires. So far this year, the Minnesota DNR has recorded 533 fires that have burned 14,613 acres.
The Department of Natural Resources encourages landowners to find alternatives to burning debris, such as chipping or composting. This is especially true for landowners affected by last July’s blow down storms in east-central Minnesota and western Wisconsin.