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.
Running through the Iron Range of northeastern Minnesota, the Mesabi Trail provides a recreational and alternate transportation corridor for hikers, bikers, skiers, and horseback riders, as well as some designated snow snowmobile use areas. When completed the trail will include 145 paved miles extending from the Mississippi River in Grand Rapids to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Ely – 115 miles have been finished to date. The St. Louis and Lake Counties Regional Railroad Authority are using this appropriation to develop 11 miles of trail segments near Vermilion State Park.
The Minnesota County Biological Survey (MCBS) is an ongoing effort begun in 1987 by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) that is systematically surveying, county-by-county, the state's natural habitats. The effort identifies significant natural areas and collects and interprets data on the status, distribution, and ecology of plants, animals, and native plant communities throughout the state. Through 2009 surveys have been completed in 74 of Minnesota's 87 counties and have added nearly 17,000 new records of rare features to the DNR's information systems.
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.
Over the past 100 years, about half of Minnesota’s original 22 million acres of wetlands have been drained or filled. Some regions of the State have lost more than 90 percent of their original wetlands. The National Wetland Inventory, a program initiated in the 1970s, is an important tool used at all levels of government and by private industry, non-profit organizations, and private landowners for wetland regulation and management, land management and conservation planning, environmental impact assessment, and natural resource inventories.
Effective groundwater management requires accurate knowledge about the water budget, which is the amount of water stored within the system in aquifers and the amount of water flowing through the overall hydrologic system including water flowing at the surface, water flowing from above ground down into aquifers, and water flowing between aquifers below the surface.
Adoption of renewable energy technologies and energy conservation practices can contribute in a variety of ways to the environmental and economic health of rural Minnesota communities through costs savings and emissions reductions. Engaging and coaching students as the leaders in the process of implementing such practices provides the added benefit of increasing knowledge, teaching about potential career paths, and developing leadership experience.