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State Sen. Satveer Chaudhary, DFL-Fridley, column: Minnesota natural resources need 'green revolution'

By Satveer Chaudhary ST. PAUL -- It has been a year since Minnesota voted overwhelmingly to renew our investment in the outdoors. The Legacy Amendment now provides a dedicated conservation funding source for the next 25 years. Sports men and wome...

By Satveer Chaudhary

ST. PAUL -- It has been a year since Minnesota voted overwhelmingly to renew our investment in the outdoors. The Legacy Amendment now provides a dedicated conservation funding source for the next 25 years.

Sports men and women led this change for a decade, proving the great outdoors is a heritage that binds all Minnesotans.

With passage of the amendment, this year also saw the passing of Norman Borlaug. This Minnesotan won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for what was the "Green Revolution" of his time. I find Borlaug's death very symbolic.

With our state's newfound energy toward the outdoors and with Minnesota's history of doing big things, is it wise to ask if a new "green revolution" is needed -- this time in regard to natural resources management?

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In my view, the success of the Legacy Amendment funding should raise as many new questions as answers if we are to keep faith with voters that the new money will be spent wisely. Only Minnesotans can tell government whether true reform is in order, and it is now time for myself and others to open the door for such discussion.

So what can we begin to question about our natural resources? A few questions come to mind: Are we spending new and old dollars for natural resources wisely? Does our money fund the mission or the institution? Are state agencies meeting the needs of Minnesotans? And how much of what we do should be for the long term?

Over the past few months, I have met with several stakeholder groups who have questions of their own, and I heard important themes: "Focus on the function before the form," "do not reform for reform's sake," "we don't trust just one idea or bill" and most important, "listen to us first, even our rivals."

Discussions should review how natural resources are governed and develop strategic principles for Minnesota to implement reform efforts, but only if needed. We should consider partnerships between government entities, nongovernment entities, organizations, landowners and others in the process. We also should consider modern science and find ways to simplify the system.

The approach needs common sense and forward thinking.

So let's hold some Senate Environment Committee hearings where legislators listen to the ideas of Minnesotans on how government can better serve Minnesotans and the outdoors.

We will need to be open-minded, shed our personal agendas and just listen. We must bring all new ideas together, reconcile them and act. It should be a joint effort from state employees, farmers, businesses, local governments, environmentalists and sportsmen to determine how we can improve natural resources management.

Let's hear what people have been saying for a while and what people will say for the first time. Let's hear from the two people standing across the license counter from one another.

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Our outdoor resources, our lakes and rivers and our cultural amenities truly define Minnesota's quality of life. The Legacy Amendment was just the beginning. Now we must work on effective and efficient government so that future generations can carry on Minnesota's outdoor heritage.

If just symbolically, could Norman Borlaug have passed away this year for a reason? Has the torch been passed to ignite yet another green revolution? One thing is certain, it will be Minnesotans once again that lead it.

State Sen. Chaudhary, DFL-Fridley, is chair of the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee.

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