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.
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.