Insider: October 27, 2017

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Insect Decline Demands Action

Last week, a multinational team of European scientists released the disturbing results of a study of insect populations tested throughout Germany. Their data confirmed a major environmental concern, showing that flying insects – including flies, bees, and butterflies – had decreased in population by roughly 75% over the last 27 years. Though pollinator decline has been recognized for some time, this research throws the problem into stark contrast.

The global decline in flying insects is hitting Minnesota strongly. Judy Chucker, a member of the Izaak Walton League’s Minnesota Division, calls it a “quiet disaster.” During the past summer, she traveled with fellow members to farmland in southeastern Minnesota, and says that in contrast to previous years, there were “no bugs on the windshield. Not many birds there, either.” However, she added, “when we got to organic farm areas, it was a different story – we started to see insects and birds again.”

The loss of these insects is quiet, but it is indeed an imminent disaster. Insects help form the foundation of ecosystems around the world – birds, fish, and other important species depend on them to survive – humans included. According to a League of Women Voters-Minnesota briefing paper, honeybees alone enable over 90% of American crops to reproduce, and pollinators in general contribute more than $24 billion to the U.S. economy.  It’s abundantly clear that the dramatic decline in insect species spells danger for all other ecosystems and human life.

While a number of factors are causing insects to die off, it’s clear that pesticides are a major cause. Commonly-used pesticides, including neonicotinoids, permeate the environment. These pesticides kill grasshoppers, flies, bees, and butterflies without distinction. And the elimination of safe, pesticide-free habitat in both urban and rural areas is destroying remaining safe havens for these vulnerable species.

In Minnesota, we agree that we need to protect our pollinators. According to MEP polling from February 2017, 87% of Minnesotans are concerned about the disappearance of pollinators, and a majority favor steps to restrict harmful pesticides to alleviate the problem. But so far, the political will to enact scientifically-backed solutions has not gathered enough steam to tackle this issue. For the sake of our farms, our great outdoors, and our way of life, we need to make sure our leaders take action to slow and halt the insect decline – and soon.

More resources from MEP members working on pollinator protection:

photo credit: Pioneer Press

Gov. Dayton: I now support PolyMet mine

(From WCCO, featuring MEP Executive Director Steve Morse) — Gov. Mark Dayton is throwing his support behind a controversial copper-nickel mining project in northern Minnesota — and  environmental groups are not happy. He said Tuesday he supports the proposed PolyMet mine in Hoyt Lakes. The mine would bring nearly 400 jobs to the economically-distressed area, and supporters say it could lead to the rebirth of the mining industry. This proposal has been debated for at least ten years, and Dayton has been neutral until now, expressing his concern for both the environmental impact and the need to bring jobs to the area. Political analysts say the governor’s move is less about mining than providing a lifeline to a crumbling Democratic base on the Iron Range. >>Read and Watch More.



Groups respond to Line 3 hearing shutdown

(From Duluth News Tribune) — Pipeline protesters caused an early end to the Enbridge Line 3 public hearing at the DECC on Wednesday night. “The crowd got lively after the judge repeatedly refused to let indigenous women speak if she recognized them as a speaker at any other time,” photographer Rob Wilson wrote on Facebook. “People called into question if she knows every speaker from memory and why the white Enbridge workers could talk twice.” Videos taken toward the end of the second round of the day’s hearings, scheduled from 6-9 p.m., show a group chanting “shut it down” as Administrative Law Judge Ann O’Reilly tried to quiet the room before ultimately ending the hearing. Line 3 opponents Honor the Earth said in a statement Thursday, “We would like peace, and urge the state not to issue the permit.” >>Read More.

Enbridge ordered to publicly disclose the probability of spills along proposed new pipeline

(From Star Tribune) — The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) ruled Thursday that Enbridge must publicly disclose projections for potential oil spills on its proposed new pipeline that would cross the northern part of the state. Meanwhile, the PUC canceled two public hearings on the Line 3 proposal scheduled for Thursday in St. Cloud. The PUC says the city advised of it “logistical and safety issues related to numerous events” being held at venue for the hearings. The cancellations came a week after a public hearing on the issue in Duluth was cut short by protesters. >>Read More.

MEP Releases Line 3 Fact Sheet

For more information on the Enbridge Line 3 proposal, check out MEP’s newly released fact sheet on the pipeline, and why it is unneeded and hazardous for Minnesota.



Organic farm program opens doors for Somali-American growers

(From MPR News) — In early October, a group of volunteers took down a greenhouse at Big River Farms near the town of Scandia. The 150-acre incubator farm, a 45-minute drive northeast of Minneapolis, offers hands-on farmer education, land and equipment for immigrants and people of color. The growing season was winding down, but Naima Dhore’s quarter-acre plot was still a colorful display of Swiss chard, curly kale and carrots. Her two sons ran around in their rubber rain boots, jumping in puddles, while Dhore washed the mud off a carrot for them. “My husband works a lot, so trying to juggle between my children and my work and here, it’s a lot. But I’m passionate about farming, I love it, and it’s a beautiful place here,” Dhore said. >>Read More.

photo credit: Chesapeake Bay Program

Farmer sequestering carbon for better soil health

(From Rochester Post Bulletin) — Where do you keep your carbon? If you’re Jon Luhman, you’re trying to sock some away in the ground. Preferably for a rainy day. Luhman and his son, Jared Luhman, raise beef cows, black beans and corn, plus forage for the cattle — all of it organic — on a little more than 700 acres at Dry Creek Red Angus farm, northwest of Goodhue. In the process, Luhman is putting carbon back into the soil, a process he said helps his farm in a multitude of ways. “The number one reason is for fertility,” he said. “Its a big benefit for production. It absorbs more moisture. So there’s more water infiltration, more organic matter and less tillage.” In fact, a pound of organic matter — which consists of 58 percent carbon — can hold as much as six pounds of water in the soil, according to University of Minnesota Extension. >>Read More.


Nuns bring another solar array to Mankato

(From Mankato Free Press) — When a developer suggested in 2015 that the Mankato-based School Sisters of Notre Dame sign up as a subscriber for the power generated by a planned solar array in the area, the nuns had a more ambitious idea: build the array on our land. Two years later, Innovative Power Systems of Roseville is beginning construction on a 1.3 megawatt solar array with roughly 40,000 solar panels capable of creating enough energy to power 165 average Minnesota homes. The School Sisters will be a major subscriber for the new power, expected to go on line by late winter, as will Blue Earth County, the Hilton Garden Inn and the city of New Richland. >>Read More.

Minnesota housing development to include community energy storage

(From Midwest Energy News) — A new housing development in suburban Minneapolis-St. Paul will use grid-interactive electric thermal water heaters to enable the Midwest’s first community energy storage project. Country Joe Homes’ Legacy 2 development in Lakeville is building 79 homes over the next two years. Each home will have 80-gallon water heaters manufactured by Steffes Corp. The sophisticated water heaters will allow Great River Energy (GRE) and Dakota Electric Association — the cooperative providing electricity to the development — to use them as community storage capable of integrating the state’s growing wind and solar resources. “The water heaters behave as a battery and absorb energy, mainly at night, but they can be turned on and off in a moment’s notice,” said Gary Connett, Great River Energy’s director of member services. >>Read More.

Events and Advocacy News                                                                                              

Women’s Congress for Future Generations to meet in Brooklyn Park, Nov 3-5

The Women’s Congress works to live out what Martin Luther King, Jr. described as the “Beloved Community.” It supports people stepping into collective power to use laws, policies and norms to transition to a just and sustainable world. The 2017 conference focuses on climate, health, and justice. It bears witness to communities of color who are hit hardest by climate change and pollution as people of color are statistically more likely to suffer from autism, lead poisoning and breast cancer, and seeks to create more just systems in response. 

Speakers include nationally recognized experts on climate change and women working in communities impacted by groundwater contamination, pipelines, and toxins in our homes.

Learn more and register with the Women’s Congress for Future Generations! 

Calling all advocacy groups: Apply to be a Capitol Pathways Internship Host

Applications are still open for organizations to host a Capitol Pathways intern in the 2018 Legislative Session. With the long-term goal of making our government truly representative of our communities, the program seeks to open access to the Minnesota capitol to the next generation of leaders of color. Through this program, interns will build relationships with established capitol leaders, gain exposure to various kinds of careers in policy, get real-world experience in career fields they would like to learn more about and build a strong professional resume in the process. This is a spring internship and will run from January-May 2018.

Click for more information on Capitol Pathways and how to apply!


Weekly Outdoor Trivia – Answers Below Job Postings!            

1. What insect species is Minnesota’s official state butterfly?

2. “Lester” is the name of the official state ______ of Minnesota?

3. What toxin, a byproduct of power generation, mining, and industry, is especially prevalent in the St. Louis river?

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Trivia Answers: 1) Monarch butterfly. 2) Official state soil 3) Mercury

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The Minnesota Environmental Partnership (MEP) is a coalition of more than 70 environmental and conservation organizations working together for clean water, clean energy, and protection of our Great Outdoors.

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