What does the stimulus plan mean for our Great Outdoors?

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While Minnesotans offer their ideas on how to deal with the massive state budget deficit at community hearings throughout the state in the next few weeks, we should take time to reflect on how recent federal actions will impact our Great Outdoors.

Tuesday’s signing of the historic American Recovery and Reinvestment Act offered some hope for our country’s lakes, rivers, streams and other natural resources.

Salon offers an excellent accounting of the conservation-friendly components of the package.  Tom Elko has posted on his blog Sky Blue Waters a short list of funding for environmental and conservation purposes from the stimulus package.  And the New York Times ran an editorial about the energy components of the bill.

At the outset of his remarks, President Obama made it perfectly clear that the stimulus package is just “the beginning” of the hard work that must be done. David Sirota agrees, noting that “the fights from here get tougher.”

To that end, 25 of the largest environmental and conservation organizations in the country have just released the Green Budget for fiscal year 2010. The report outlines priorities for federal spending on lands and wildlife, energy, environment and public health, oceans, transportation and other programs.

You can download the full report at: www.saveourenvironment.org

In Minnesota, we spend a lot of time working on issues like protecting and restoring our lakes, rivers and streams, and reducing global warming pollution. These are exactly the types of issues the report addresses and provides recommendations to fund.

Efforts like the Green Budget are extremely useful as we work to protect Minnesota’s Great Outdoors. Not only do they offer policymakers valuable data and thoughtful advice on how spending on conservation and environmental programs can best be allocated, but they also shine a much needed spotlight on the importance of these federal programs.

For more commentary on what the stimulus money might mean for Minnesota, check out the op ed written by Dave Van Hattum of Transit for Livable Communities, printed in the Star Tribune on Feb. 20.

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