Minnesotans are turning to nature more than ever. State parks and recreation areas welcomed more than 12 million visitors last year, a 25 percent increase from 2019.

Natural areas like Whitewater State Park also provide clean air and water while removing carbon from the atmosphere and locking it up in trees, plants and soil. Forests and grasslands, including working lands, in Southeast Minnesota can help limit the worst effects of climate change, including excessive heat and more frequent and devastating floods.

Lawmakers have proposed investing in scientific and natural areas, reforestation and tree seedling production. The Minnesota House recently announced a slate of capital investments that reflects the need to take action and include nature as part of the solution. Similarly, Rochester state Sen. David Senjem has authored a bill this session that would make essential investments in Minnesota’s forests. His colleagues should be sure to include this funding in the final bonding legislation.

A recent report from The Nature Conservancy in Minnesota estimates that reforestation alone could offset eight million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year—equivalent to removing the annual emissions from energy consumption in 960,000 homes, approximately 20 times the number of households in Rochester.

With a budget surplus in the state and a forthcoming infusion of federal dollars from the American Rescue Plan, now is a prime opportunity to make bold investments to protect and restore Minnesota’s natural resources.

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Sean McCauley lives just outside of Rochester, where he has restored roughly half of his family’s small farm to prairie.

He is a longtime supporter of The Nature Conservancy and is an active member of its MN-ND-SD Climate Advisory Group.

Sean McCauley, Rochester

Sean McCauley lives just outside of Rochester, where he has restored roughly half of his family’s small farm to prairie. He is a longtime supporter of The Nature Conservancy and is an active member of its MN-ND-SD Climate Advisory Group.