Embrace Weedy Backyards and Undeveloped Lots

Imbolc      Waning Wild Moon

This is an opinion piece by Senator Ellen Anderson.  I reprint it in full here because she addresses a critical problem for the Great Work.  Almost.

Here’s what I mean.  In referring to the work of the Lessard Council she defends metro area expenditures because, as she puts it, the DNR has used scientific principles to determine that the Metro area has 255,000 acres of undeveloped land with high ecological significance. (italics mine)  She does this to defend these acres from those who would claim that there is “no habitat” to protect in the metro area.  OK, so far.

The problem is this.  In her genuflection to science and its degrees of high ecological significance she misses the urban forests, the front yards and backyards, the parks and boulevards, even the land most often neglected, the land beneath streets, highways, buildings, houses, railroad tracks and industry.  It is as if these portions either do not exist, or, because they do not meet the definition of high ecological significance that they are somehow less worthy.

Yes, I know she makes this argument for a particular pot of money aimed at vanishing wilderness and  other areas important to science and again, I say, that’s ok as far it goes, but it leaves us with the notion that these other lands, the lands of low ecological significance according to scientific criteria, are less than, underwhelming.

In fact, if the Great Work is to succeed, then we must embrace our weedy backyards and the undeveloped lot, our over-grassed lawns and our worn-out parks.  We must find ways to love them and treasure them as they are all Mother Earth.  In some ways this is a greater calling than struggling over the remaining areas of high ecological significance.  Why?  Because these humble patches of earth are where most of us meet our mother day-to-day.   Because it is often these humble patches of earth that are the most degraded and in need of our care.  Because it is these humble patches of earth, close to the bulk of the population that can be transformed into local food sources and beautiful flower and native plant gardens.

Senator Ellen Anderson’s piece:

“As one of the Senate members of the Lessard Outdoor Heritage Council, I have been impressed by the dedication and hours put in by all of the council’s members in the last few months. We are trying to come up with a good plan to protect, restore and enhance our natural resources, as we promised the voters who approved the Clean Water, Land and Legacy amendment in November.

Many legislators have expressed concern that the preliminary list of proposals is light on metro-area projects, well under 10 percent of the dollars and a very small portion of total acreage. Traditionally, the Legislature values statewide balance: Dollars spent should serve all Minnesotans, not just some. I agree with this principle. But if our primary concern is protecting natural resources and habitat, there are other critical reasons the constitutional legacy funds should not all be spent in greater Minnesota.

I’ve heard many people say there’s “no habitat in the metro area.” Not true. The state Department of Natural Resources used scientific principles to determine that the seven-county metro region still has over 255,000 acres of undeveloped natural land with high ecological significance. This is 15 percent of the region. Sixty-eight percent (174,139 acres) of these remaining natural lands is not permanently protected as regional park, wildlife refuge or natural area, or by other public designation.

To put this amount of land in perspective, one of the projects the council approved (and which I support) is the acquisition, by easement, of 187,000 acres of forestland in the area around the Mississippi River headwaters, for more than $40 million.

Clearly there is land of significant ecological value all around the state, and such land should be protected for future generations. The Statewide Conservation and Preservation plan recognizes that and should guide our decisions with the best science from University of Minnesota experts.”