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Pioneer Editorial: Ask about the future of our environment

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Bemidji, 56619

Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

Minnesota has no greater asset than its lakes and woods, fields and streams, flora and fauna. The protection of our valuable natural resources should rank at the top of everyone's list.

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Yet, in recent years, because of a rush of other issues demanding attention and with a severe lack of financial resources to take care of all of our needs, the environment has taken a back seat. A wide-ranging group of business and community leaders, as well as a bipartisan group of former elected officials, however, want to change that and put the environment back on top of that public priority list, starting with this fall's elections.

Envision Minnesota was launched on Friday with a goal of redirecting public attention to such issues as cleaning up lakes and rivers, protecting natural resources and finding new energy sources. With an increasing number of our lakes and streams labeled as "impaired" with pollution and with gas prices hovering near $3 a gallon, the timing of such an effort could not be better.

Former U.S. Rep. Tim Penny, an Envision Minnesota organizer, said that "when people think about Minnesota, they think of the land of sky-blue waters, the land of 10,000 lakes, the origin of the Mississippi River. This is what attracts people to Minnesota, what makes us unique."

The group wants voters this fall to ask candidates for state offices their views on the environment, with the idea that we elect lawmakers and the governor to serve as trustees of the state's assets. The group wants candidates to take stands on five themes which the group says is important to Minnesota's environment:

-- Establishing a program to clean polluted waters.

-- Saving energy and using renewable energy sources.

-- Planning for future growth and development.

-- Creating awareness of long-term environmental issues.

-- Protecting habitat and wildlife.

Minnesota is truly at a crossroads at which provisions must be made to protect our fragile environment while steering development in a direction that won't harm our environment.

Beltrami County recently took great strides in that direction by using the technical advise of environmental experts to reclassify the county's most fragile lakes to guide development where it will do the least harm to environmentally sensitive waters. Those efforts need to be expanded both geographically and in scope to become a part of statewide policy that preserves our environment for future generations of Minnesotans.

Envision Minnesota asks an important question that we all need to consider: "What do we see when we imagine Minnesota, now and in the future?" Directing our actions now can help take us there.

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