From Wildlife Art to Policy: My Perspective on Minnesota’s Environment
I was born in Baudette, Minnesota. Located on Minnesota’s northern border, Lake of the Woods County is literally a stone’s throw away from Canada, nestled in the beautiful north woods for which our state is famous. Growing up there, I was struck by the natural beauty of the landscape, a memory that has stayed with me my whole life.
These experiences influenced me in many ways. I became a wildlife artist, spending many hours in the woods and wetland areas researching the subjects and habitat for my paintings. Deer in the heart of forests, loons on one of our many lakes – these beautiful images with which I had grown up were something I wanted to share with others.
These childhood memories continue to influence my work at the legislature. As a member of the Environment and Energy Committee, I have worked with my colleagues to ensure that we are effective stewards of Minnesota’s natural surroundings. Being stewards means balancing our enjoyment of this environment while using conservation to keep this habitat healthy for future generations.
Several of the bills I worked on this year made great progress in policies that are good for our environment. One example is the private-public partnership called the Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) program. This program allows private money to be matched by the state in supporting our critical habitats. With a $3 million appropriation, we will be able to enhance the outdoor recreational opportunities in our state while ensuring the continued existence of the natural bounty we have.
Another way we were able to support our environment was in removing obsolete provisions, redundant language and other unnecessary statues to help improve the efficiency of state government. This year, I carried legislation that reformed and enhanced statutes around the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Pollution Control Agency (PCA). This streamlined a lot of the interactions with these state agencies, which are critical to the work of supporting our environment. By offering sensible reforms, we are making it easier for them to do the most necessary work in supporting our state’s natural resources.
Perhaps the most important resource in our state is one we take for granted – our water. As our climate changes and our population grows, our water infrastructure is increasingly strained. In my own district, Turtle Lake has seen alarming drops in its water levels. This year, I secured funding to study how we can work to guarantee the lake’s long-term viability. I’m looking forward to working with my colleagues to continue to guarantee the survival of our state’s water through my recent appointment to the Legislative Water Commission. With smart policy that comes from stakeholders, researchers and the general public, we can continue to provide a future that balances our environmental needs with our economic future.