Large deposits of copper, nickel, cobalt, and other minerals in northeastern Minnesota could provide huge economic and employment benefits to the state while becoming an important source of important metals for the country. However, the mining required to extract them could have significant water quality impacts in a region that includes the Boundary Water Canoe Area Wilderness and other environmentally sensitive watersheds.
Terrestrial invasive plants such as buckthorn, wild parsnip, garlic mustard, and others are becoming widespread threats throughout many sites in Minnesota. Present chemical and mechanical control methods tend to be costly, effective only in the short-term, or have other negative environmental impacts. However, an alternative practice of using grazing animals for invasive species management is used successfully in many parts of the western United States.
Mine stockpiles are unproductive due to soil deficiencies of organic matter, nutrients, and soil organisms, which are essential to supporting healthy plant growth, diversity, and succession. Waste products, including biosolids, composts, and dredged materials, have the potential to be used to address some of these deficiencies and make the lands productive again.
The Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) has been decimating ash throughout the Great Lake States and is currently advancing into Minnesota, threatening the future of the ash forests that occur across much of the state. Of particular concern is the impact EAB will have on the ecology and functioning of black ash swamps, which cover over one million acres in Minnesota and represent the state’s most common ash forest type. Black ash trees grow and thrive in swamps and occupy a unique wet niche where few other tree species grow.
Ballast water - water carried in tanks on ships to help provide stability and aid steering - is likely the single greatest source for introduction of non-native and invasive aquatic species. Ballast water is collected in one body of water and discharged into another body of water, usually large distances apart. At least one new invasive species is found in the Great Lakes every year, with Lake Superior being particularly at risk. Scientists from the U.S.
Increasing energy conservation and efficiency in residences can play a significant role in Minnesota's goals for energy savings and carbon emissions reductions. The Center for Energy and Environment (CEE), a Minneapolis-based nonprofit organization, is using this appropriation to develop and implement innovative residential energy efficiency programs. Programs will be demonstrated in eight cities: Apple Valley, Austin, Duluth, Minneapolis, Owatonna, Park Rapids, Rochester, and St. Paul.
Minnesota has 9.5 million acres of public forest lands that play an important role in sustaining Minnesota’s environment and economy. The policies and programs used by public timber sale programs can impact post-harvest ecological conditions and have pronounced effects on the composition, structure, and productivity of the forest in the future. Additionally, timber harvesting revenues play an important role in economic activity, employment, and tax revenue.
Lake Superior, the world’s largest freshwater lake by surface area, is amongst Minnesota’s greatest natural resources providing drinking water, shipping, recreation, and tourism. Recently the lake has been undergoing significant changes including increasing water temperatures, decreasing ice cover, increasing nutrient loads, decreasing biological productivity, increasing invasive species, and changes in species abundance and distribution. The reasons behind these changes and the interactions amongst them are not well understood.
Moose, one of Minnesota's prized wildlife species, are dying at much higher rates in Minnesota than elsewhere in North America. Recently observed increases in mortality rates amongst some moose in northeastern Minnesota have led to concern that the population there may be entering a decline like that seen in the northwestern part of the state, where moose populations fell from over 4,000 to fewer than 100 in less than 20 years. Additionally the specific causes of increased mortality amongst individual moose remain under investigation.
Minnesota has 15.9 million acres of forest land managed by a variety of county, state and federal agencies, and private landowners for timber production, wildlife habitat, and ecological considerations. Forest managers rely on inventory data to make effective planning and management decisions. Because forests are continually changing through natural and human processes, forest inventory data is periodically updated. However, doing so is an expensive and time-consuming endeavor and, as a result, much of Minnesota’s forest inventory data is currently out of date.
Woody biomass energy systems have shown themselves to offer more locally-based, stable energy supplies for some communities. Itasca Community College is using this appropriation to design a renewable energy system based on woody biomass that will serve as a demonstration and educational tool in the region.