Voices from across Minnesota call on Legislature to protect water, end attempts to roll back environment protection

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April 13, 2017

St. Paul, Minnesota — Thursday morning, April 13, citizens from across Minnesota held a press conference at the Minnesota Capitol, calling on the Minnesota Legislature to protect our water and end attempts to unravel the fabric of Minnesota’s environmental protections.  The Minnesota Legislature’s budget bills include proposals to limit environmental review, suspend water quality standards and limit the ability to acquire public lands for hunting and fishing.

“The 2017 legislature is effectively mounting a frontal assault on Minnesota’s Great Outdoors,” said Steve Morse, Executive Director of the Minnesota Environmental Partnership. “From raiding the legacy amendment funds to blocking existing water quality standards to bypassing the public process for review of dangerous tar sands oil pipelines and large factory farms, this legislature is ignoring the wishes of Minnesotans and unraveling the protections that are there to make our outdoors great into the future.”

These wide-ranging proposals threatening the environment are opposed by Minnesotans from across the state. Kathy DeBuhr, a member of Land Stewardship Project and a farmer in Chokio, Minnesota described why a proposal to limit environmental review for large feedlots would impact her farm and her neighbors in rural Minnesota. “I know firsthand why environmental review matters for rural Minnesota. It was the environmental review process that allowed me and my neighbors to make our voices heard when an 8,000-cow factory farm was proposed in our township,” DeBuhr said. “This operation was going to use 100 million gallons of water a year. We wanted to know what the impact of this massive operation would be on our wells, on our air quality, on our lives.”

Paul Schollmeier, a City Councilor in Winona, is deeply concerned about provisions that would suspend water quality standards, particularly those that would limit phosphorus pollution that causes algae blooms. He highlighted the impact of pollution on Lake Winona. “Lake Winona has suffered from tremendous phosphorus loading over the past 30+ years, and residents can no longer face the algae blooms to risk a swim. To save our lake, our community is working diligently to adhere to water quality standards, supported by science, so that once again we might have a healthy Lake Winona,” stated Schollmeier.

Local governments’ ability to limit the use of plastic bags would be suspended if provisions in the Minnesota Legislature’s budget are passed into law. Lynn Hoffman, co-President of Eureka Recycling, decried these proposals, stating “Americans use 100 billion plastic bags every year. Each one used for roughly 12 minutes or less before ending up floating in our waterways, buried in a landfill, or burned in an incinerator. Any of these outcomes pollute our air, water, land and wildlife – and disproportionally harm low income communities and communities of color.”

Lance Ness, President of Anglers for Habitat, called attention to changes in the Legacy funding bill passed by the Minnesota House that would limit the ability to protect land and raid the Clean Water Fund. “When you save the land, you protect the water – for what happens on the land surely affects what happens to the water,” Ness stated.

All speakers encouraged Minnesotans to contact their legislators to let them know that they oppose rolling back protections for clean water and public land. One opportunity coming up is Water Action Day at the Minnesota Capitol on Wednesday, April 19th. Over 600 Minnesotans from across the state have already registered for a day of citizen lobbying and a rally in the Minnesota Capitol Rotunda. People can register for Water Action Day by going to http://bit.ly/wateractionday.

Watch MCEA video of the press conference here.

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Biographical information for speakers at the event

Kathy DeBuhr is a member of the Land Stewardship Project from Chokio, Minnesota. She is a nurse and farms with her husband Les. Along with her neighbors she fought a proposed 8,850-cow factory dairy farm and in 2014 succeeded in getting the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s Citizens’ Board to require an in-depth environmental review. As a result, corporate agriculture interests pushed successfully to eliminate the 48-year-old Citizens’ Board during the 2015 legislative session.

Evan Holmes is 11-years-old and a 6th grader at St. Paul Academy. Evan is concerned about the harm that plastic bags do to our fragile world, citing the many sea turtles that die every year from mistaking the plastic for jellyfish. Evan presented testimony to the Senate Local Government Committee this session, opposing a pre-emption of plastic bag bans passed by municipalities.  “I think that we should help our communities to make moves in the right direction and this bill does the opposite.” Evan cares for two dogs and a hermit crab at home. He is on the St. Paul Academy tennis team.

Lynn Hoffman is a Saint Paul native and co-President of Eureka Recycling. Lynn stepped into this role last fall after having been with Eureka Recycling for over 13 years. Overseeing HR, Communications, Community Engagement, Policy & Advocacy for the organization, she is passionate about the potential for zero waste to address issues of climate change, local economic development and environmental justice.

Tara Houska is a member of Couchiching First Nation and is a tribal attorney based in Washington, D.C. She is the National Campaigns Director of Honor the Earth, and a former advisor on Native American affairs to Bernie Sanders. She advocates on behalf of tribal nations at the local and federal levels on a range of issues impacting indigenous peoples. She recently spent nearly six months living and working in North Dakota fighting the Dakota Access Pipeline. She is a co-founder of Not Your Mascots, a non-profit committed to educating the public about the harms of stereotyping and promoting positive representation of Native Americans in the public sphere.

Steve Morse is Executive Director of the Minnesota Environmental Partnership, a coalition of more than 70 environmental, conservation, and civic organizations working together for clean water, clean energy and protection of our Great Outdoors. Steve has served as Senior Fellow in the College of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences, at the University of Minnesota, was Deputy Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) from 1999 to 2003, and was elected to the Minnesota State Senate for four terms beginning in 1986.

Lance Ness is President of Anglers for Habitat and is on the board of the Minnesota Conservation Federation. He is a past president of the Fish and Wildlife Legislative Alliance. Ness was an organizer of the Ducks, Wetlands and Clean Water rallies in 2005 and 2006, and worked to pass the Legacy Amendment in 2008. He was named Person of the Year in 2006 by Outdoor News.

Erin Rupp is a beekeeper and founder of the organization Pollinate Minnesota.  This year she keeps 21 honeybee colonies at eight different apiaries, including libraries, schools and two western Wisconsin farms.  She’s been beekeeping for ten years and teaches classes with live bees, connecting beekeeping and hands on agricultural education experiences with K12 audiences around Minnesota. She’s a member of the MN Honey Producers Association and MN Hobby Beekeepers and serves on Governor Dayton’s Committee for Pollinator Protection.

Paul Schollmeier is a member of the Winona City Council. He also served four years as Soil and Water Supervisor in Winona County from 2012-2016. As president of the Mississippi River Revival he organized numerous river cleanups in the Twin Cities between 1985-1990, assisted in the development of Minnesota’s Adopt a River program in the late 80’s, and guided the River Revival to two consecutive National Take Pride in America Awards.  Paul steadfastly believes that our environment is an indicator of the type of people we want to be, now and into the future, and that science and a healthy environment should be our guide to a habitable planet.

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