Saint Paul, Minn. (Feb. 16, 2015) – Senators Tomassoni, Saxhaug, Bakk and Ingebrigtsen introduced S.F. 868 today, which would roll back existing water quality rules set in place to protect our state’s natural wild rice. Companion bill H.F. 853 was introduced last week. The bill would suspend current sulfate standards in wild rice waters.
Minnesota has more natural wild rice stands than any other state or Canadian province, and has designated it as the state grain. For centuries, Native Americans of the upper Midwest, relied upon the grain as an important source of protein, and European pioneers depended on it for survival. It is also an important food source and habitat for wildlife, including waterfowl.
Minnesota’s wild rice protection rule was set by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and adopted by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. In 2011, similar bills were introduced in both the Minnesota House and Senate that proposed to modify or suspend the current federally-approved water quality standards for wild rice waters. Those proposals were deemed by the EPA to be an overreach of legislative authority.
The Minnesota Environmental Partnership, the state’s largest coalition of environmental and conservation nonprofits, issued this statement:
“Here we go again,” said Steve Morse, executive director of the Minnesota Environmental Partnership. “This is yet another attack on our state’s water quality. This is just the most recent attempt to undermine protections of wild rice. Both the courts and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) agree that the current state process is the right way to proceed to protect our waters and our state grain. This legislation would rollback current water quality standards – we think our wild rice and our water deserve better: rules based on fact, not suspended through power politics. Our wild rice legacy depends on it.”
Minnesota Environmental Partnership is a statewide coalition of more than 70 environmental and conservation organizations working together for clean water, clean energy and protection of our Great Outdoors. The Minnesota Environmental Partnership engages state leaders, unites environmental efforts and helps citizens take action for the Minnesota they love.