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.
With diesel fuel prices climbing to $4 per gallon, there's now a loan program that can help Minnesota long-haul truckers save money, stay cool this summer, and reduce pollution on overnight rest stops.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency offers low, 4 percent loans to owner-operated long-haul truckers and small trucking companies to purchase idle-reduction devices. These auxiliary power units, or APUs, are either small, 15-horsepower diesel engines or battery pack systems that can run air conditioning, heaters and electricity to power laptops while the truck’s main engine is shut off.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is dedicated to preserving and enhancing the environment of Minnesota and preserving our natural heritage for generations to come. The DNR employs 2,700 workers and does everything from maintaining state parks to defending our waters from invasive species. Such a broad and comprehensive agency needs a capable, experienced, enthusiastic leader, and DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr certainly fits the bill. His credentials have not gone untested; just one year into his term, Commissioner Landwehr has combated Asian carp, conserved natural grassland, and convinced Minnesotans to get in touch with the great outdoors again. Commissioner Landwehr did all this despite the government shutdown last summer and a 15 percent cut in funds from the state.
Politics in Minnesota (subscription required) highlighted the work of Commissioner Landwehr this week. Bud Stone, president of the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, emphasizes Commissioner Landwehr’s work ethic and effectiveness. He worked with Landwehr as a member of the Forest Legacy Advisory Group, and said, “Tom was a great asset because he’s very knowledgeable.”
Op/Ed by Governor Mark Dayton
Published in Outdoor News on Friday, March 2, 2012 at 2:42 p.m.
By now, readers of Outdoor News know about the imminent threat that Asian carp (including silver, bighead and black carp) pose to the precious waters of our wonderful state. Silently and steadily, they are migrating up the Mississippi River. If established here, they would forever change the ecology and human uses of many of our water resources.
Thus it is critical that we act as quickly as possible, in whatever ways feasible, to stop the spread of Asian carp. We must also continue to work on other aquatic invasive species like zebra mussels and Eurasion watermilfoil. DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr and his staff have been working in overdrive to identify control options, assemble funding, and get authority to put protections in place.
Tim Schlagenhaft is the DNR’s point person on its Asian carp response effort (as suggested by Dennis Anderson in Feb. 12 Star Tribune, for his outstanding expertise). Tim has spent most of his career at DNR working on issues related to the Mississippi River, and has worked in close cooperation with many agencies and organizations to develop the state’s Asian carp action plan (see link at bottom). This plan outlines several steps we must take, both now and longer-term, to defeat this serious threat.
A year ago Governor Dayton ordered the Minnesota DNR and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to ‘move at the speed of commerce.” The Governor signed an Executive Order directing agencies to accelerate their permitting process and make final permit decisions within 150 days. DNR and MPCA answered the call, at their year-end reporting deadline both agencies have issued and approved 99% of their permits in less than 150 days; many of the determinations were made within just a few weeks.
The DNR and MPCA are responsible for handling between 3,000 and 5,000 permits annually, reviewing construction and expansion projects and protecting Minnesota's natural resources and environment. However, lengthy review processes can slow down growth and create headaches for businesses. To resolve this problem, Gov. Dayton directed the MPCA and DNR to accelerate and simplify their permitting process in order to allow more rapid business expansion and job creation. He asked the agencies to make permit decisions within 150 days and expedite the application process by allowing electronic filing. The State Legislature followed the Governor's lead, making the order law during the 2011 legislative session.
Though Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Commissioner Paul Aasen has taken heat from both sides of the political spectrum, he receives the rare credit of landing the in the “Extreme Center” in today’s Politics in Minnesota’s ‘Capitol Life’ series (Full Article, subscription required).
The article gives narrates Aasen’s rich background in the environmental movement as well as three gubernatorial administrations – all of different parties.
Government background is, of course, normal for agency commissioner appointees. What sets Aasen apart from most of his peers, said longtime MCPA division manager Mike Sandusky, is that he also knows the science that underpins his agency.
“That is sort of a rarity for us,” Sandusky says. “We don’t usually get that in a commissioner appointment. … That is powerful within our culture, as well as somewhat comforting to us.”
Minnesota benefitted from the Commissioner’s balanced approach in 2011 through common sense reform of Minnesota’s Environmental Review Process.
Under the Recovery Act, Minnesota was awarded $138 million to deliver energy efficient upgrades such as insulation, air-sealing, and more efficient heating and cooling systems in homes across the state.
Read the full announcement below:
Governor Dayton and Energy Secretary Chu Announce Major Recovery Act Milestone: 18,000 Homes Weatherized in Minnesota, 600,000 Nationwide
Recovery Act Program has Reduced Energy Bills for 18,000 Minnesota Households
Washington, DC -- U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu hosted a conference call today with Governor Mark Dayton to announce that states and territories across the nation have reached the goal of weatherizing more than 600,000 low-income homes– including more than 125,000 multi-family homes like apartment buildings – more than three months ahead of schedule. Under the Recovery Act, Minnesota was awarded $138 million to deliver energy efficient upgrades such as insulation, air-sealing, and more efficient heating and cooling systems in homes across the state. Through October, Minnesota has upgraded more than 18,000 homes, exceeding its goal under the Recovery Act by more than 400, and will continue weatherizing homes for the next few months with Recovery Act funds. The state reached this major milestone as part of its efforts with the Department to save energy and reduce home utility bills for families, while creating jobs in communities throughout the country.