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Reader's View: Use state budget surplus to invest in nature

Conserving our lands and waters is among the most cost-effective ways we can improve air and water quality, tackle climate change, and achieve better public health.

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Conversations around the Capitol in St. Paul too often have a tone of scarcity. That will not be the case this year. As the News Tribune reported Dec. 18 (“ Minnesota has a $7.7 billion surplus. Here are 9 ways lawmakers could spend it ”), Minnesota’s economy outperformed expectations, prompting discussions on how to allocate a record-breaking budget surplus.

Lawmakers should be careful not to limit themselves to a narrow field of competing options. A surplus of this size means they can avoid pitting proposals against one another and instead make meaningful progress on several important priorities that will benefit all Minnesotans.

Conserving our lands and waters is among the most cost-effective ways we can improve air and water quality, tackle climate change, and achieve better public health. And nature can help other investments work better.

As the News Tribune reported Dec. 18, Duluth and communities around the state need funding to replace lead service lines. But that alone will not be enough to provide clean water. We also need expanded investments in tree planting and in restoring and protecting forests and wetlands to maximize their natural ability to filter water before it reaches our cities and towns. At the same time, these natural systems will store carbon to mitigate climate change and protect against extreme weather events that damage our built infrastructure. When we fund nature, state investments can go further for all Minnesotans.

Our local legislators and their colleagues would be wise to seize this unique opportunity to support a wide variety of programs that will benefit the greatest number of Minnesotans. Investing in nature will make all of our communities healthier while building a stronger, more resilient Minnesota.

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Meredith Cornett

Duluth

The writer is the climate change director for the Nature Conservancy in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota ( nature.org/mnclimate ).


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