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Looking Ahead With . . .

Photo of Commissioner  Mark Holsten.

Mark Holsten DNR Commissioner

The DNR has developed a new Strategic Conservation Agenda, a unified framework for protecting natural resources and providing for recreational and commercial uses. Amid the world's changing realities, successful conservation depends not only on the work of the DNR, but also on strong public and private partnerships and active participation of citizens.

Q Changes in outdoor recreation participation is one of three trends described in the Strategic Conservation Agenda. Why is outdoor participation important?

Participating in outdoor recreation -- whether it's park use, hunting and fishing, camping, trail use -- provides people with a deeper connection to their surroundings. They understand better how important it is to have healthy forests, healthy lakes, and native species around them. We can't succeed as an agency without the public's understanding and connection to the environment.

Q The other two trends are landscape changes from growth and development and changes related to climate and energy. How do they affect resource management?

The trends are drivers of policy, money, and operations. They're going to influence our ability to manage natural resources. For instance, shifts in energy policy away from fossil fuels that affect our climate will result in landscape changes. As technology, incentives, and the marketplace drive us to more renewable energy systems, what we plant on the land will change. That's going to have a significant impact on conservation, natural resources, and wildlife management in this state. Is the future of biofuels corn? Another annual crop? Perennial grass? That choice has a major impact on the landscape.

The forest products industry has a huge opportunity for bioenergy. State energy policy calls for growing supplies of renewable energy. Forest biomass is one of the most stable sources of renewable energy in the nation. We need to sustainably grow the supply of forest biomass. But the bottom line is the long term health and resilience of the forest. Renewable energy development will be pursued where it is consistent with good forest management.

Wind energy is also changing the landscape. Most windmills in Minnesota are built on private farmland. However, the DNR is starting to receive requests for wind leases on state forest lands. We are developing the policy and procedures to guide decisions on these requests.

Q Why does the DNR encourage agricultural and forest landowners to develop stewardship plans?

If conservation of natural resources is truly going to be successful in Minnesota, it's not going to happen only on public lands. You can't buy enough public land to protect and restore healthy habitats and clean water. Owners of private land also need to apply effective conservation techniques to improve land and water conditions.

Q What else can the DNR do to help protect resources on private lands?

We just closed on a major private-land deal. With our conservation partners, we protected close to 190,000 acres of private industrial-forest land by purchasing development rights and securing public access for camping, hunting, fishing, trail use, and berry picking. The conservation easement prevents that land from being subdivided into multiple parcels for development. It's a different approach than we've taken in the past when we've acquired it fee title.

Q If you could fulfill one dream on behalf of natural resources, what would it be?

That question is hard because of the diversity of this state ? from the boreal forest in the northeast, to the Red River valley in the northwest, the prairie agricultural region of the west and southwest, the river valleys of the east, and the central lakes region. Look at the breadth of responsibility we have as an agency, from forest management to wildlife management, to water management, parks, trails, mining. I guess if a genie gave me one wish, it would be to restore the prairie pothole region of Minnesota -- those wetland-grassland complexes that once existed.

Q What conservation advice do you have for Minnesotans?

At its heart, conservation is about people who care about our waters, our forests and so many other things, including the legacy we leave behind. Therefore, my advice is to reflect on your life. Who sparked your interest in the outdoors? How did it happen? And once you've put your finger on it, be that person to someone else. It's the natural way to sustain our conservation heritage.

Q Is there still hope for a state park at Lake Vermilion?

There's always hope, but it's waning.


See the DNR's Strategic Conservation Agenda 2009-2013

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