Health of the Mississippi River is Critical for Nature, People and Business; State of Minnesota Calls New Water Fund a “Big Boost” for Conservation
MINNEAPOLIS — The Nature Conservancy today announced that it is establishing the Minnesota Headwaters Fund to support high-impact conservation projects to protect clean water in Minnesota’s lakes and rivers for the benefit of nature, people and business.
This $10 million privately funded investment will support protection and conservation work throughout the Upper Mississippi River basin, including easements, stream bank and floodplain restoration, and other projects that prevent pollutants such as nitrates and sediment from entering key rivers and lakes.
“The Mississippi River is far too important to Minnesota to take for granted,” said Peggy Ladner, director of The Nature Conservancy in Minnesota. “It is the primary source of drinking water and provides recreation opportunities for the Twin Cities, St. Cloud and many other communities in central Minnesota. And it is critical to agriculture, forestry, manufacturing, and tourism, all key sectors of Minnesota’s economy.”
The Conservancy is working to raise $10 million in private dollars over the next three years from companies, foundations and individuals.
Ecolab Inc., the global leader in water, hygiene and energy technologies and services, is the first company to contribute to the Fund, with a $500,000 commitment through the Ecolab Foundation.
“Ecolab’s purpose is to make the world cleaner, safer and healthier while protecting people and vital resources,” said Douglas M. Baker, Jr., Ecolab chairman and chief executive officer. “Through our partnership with The Nature Conservancy, we’re helping to protect critical watersheds in Minnesota and furthering our commitment to help address the world’s most complex environmental challenges.”
"Clean water is a core Minnesota value,” said Lt. Governor Tina Smith. “Thanks to The Nature Conservancy and its partners, water conservation and clean water are receiving a big boost.”
The Minnesota Headwaters Fund will support initiatives to protect clean water supplies from the impacts of converting land from forest to urban and agricultural uses. Land conversion has been proven to significantly impact water quality by elevating levels of nitrogen and other pollutants and, in turn, increasing the costs to communities of providing clean water.
According to projections based on the 2010 census, Minnesota’s population is likely to grow by approximately one million people by 2030. Much of that growth is expected to occur in the Twin Cities metro area and central Minnesota, where demand for Mississippi River water is already high.
At the same time that demand for fresh water is increasing, rapid land conversion around these critical watersheds is threatening water quality. Recent studies show that Minnesota has the second-highest rate of deforestation in the country. More than 260,000 acres of forest, wetland and grassland that drain into the Mississippi River above the Twin Cities were converted to agriculture and urban development between 2008 and 2013, according to data compiled by the University of Minnesota, University of Wisconsin and the Conservancy.
“Investing in conservation in high-impact watersheds before forests are converted to other uses will be more effective and generate a greater return on investment than waiting until reclamation or restoration is necessary,” said Doug Shaw, assistant state director of The Nature Conservancy in Minnesota. “That’s why we’ve established the Minnesota Headwaters Fund – to protect this critical area and the clean water it provides for future generations.”
“Minnesota will receive a significant influx of federal and state funding for water programs in the coming years,” Shaw added, “and the Fund can be used stretch those public dollars to strategically conserve enough land in high-impact watersheds to ensure the Mississippi River continues to provide clean water for nature, people and business in Minnesota.”
The Minnesota Headwaters Fund’s protection and restoration work will be guided by InVest, a science-based model developed by the Natural Capital Project to map and document the benefits nature provides to people. The Natural Capital Project works to integrate the values of nature into all major decisions affecting the environment and human well-being.
“Protecting land and water in the headwaters of the Mississippi River in Minnesota will secure safe water supplies, sustain and enhance recreation opportunities, protect forests and jobs and provide a refuge for fish and wildlife in the future,” said Rich Biske, the Conservancy’s freshwater conservation program director.
More information about the Minnesota Headwaters Fund and how to invest can be found at nature.org/Minnesota.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. In Minnesota, the Conservancy has helped protect more than 687,000 acres since 1958. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at nature.org/minnesota.