My great-great-grandfather moved to Houston County, Minnesota, at the end of the Civil War in 1865. I am blessed to be a lifelong resident of Houston County, living on part of our family's Century Farm, between Houston and Money Creek. All my siblings are farmers in Houston County. Six generations of our family have hunted her bluffs and fished in her streams. People from big cities think it is trite when people from the country say they "love the land," but it happens to be a very true statement.
Looking across the river at what is happening in western Wisconsin with the frac sand industry, one sees roads destroyed and water and air polluted. What were once peaceful rural communities are now industrial zones, with neighboring property values greatly diminished.
We do not want that to happen here in southeastern Minnesota. Our state has a national reputation for being at the forefront of treasuring its natural resources. Coming from a farming family, we have always known it isn't just "good fences that make good neighbors." Good land use regulations are also of paramount importance. Which is why there is a call for state standards to protect the bluff country region.
Citizens by the thousands have called for passing regulations to protect our southeastern Minnesota trout streams due to the sensitive karst topography in our region. Local officials throughout southeastern Minnesota have also called for this.
Senator Jeremy Miller of Winona had the chance to be the deciding vote on passing state standards to protect southeastern Minnesota trout streams from known and unknown consequences due to frac sand mining. Instead, he cast the deciding vote (10 to 11), voting them down. He voted with the special interests wanting to push frac sand mining into our communities without proper regulations in place. Waiting to establish standards after mining begins is like shutting the barn door after the horse gets out.
A very elderly farmer who lived through the Dust Bowl years was interviewed near the end of Ken Burns recent PBS documentary The Dust Bowl. The old farmer stated in a slow, measured voice: "We want it now. And, if it makes money now, it is a good idea. But, it isn't necessarily a good idea; if the thing we're doing now is going to mess up the future, it wasn't a good idea. Don't deal on the moment. Take the long term look at things."
We are signing this postcard and taking it to the Capitol today. We are telling Sen. Miller his approach is unacceptable.
We want him to "Take the long term look at things." He must start standing with the citizens of his district who are thinking about the next six generations of their families living where they have been blessed to live. They are thinking about not having those generations' futures messed up because someone was in too much of a hurry and didn't take the time to put proper regulations in place.
An early, competent, conservative conservationist who was a well-respected retired state legislator from Houston County, Virgil Johnson, worked tirelessly throughout his long career to protect Minnesota's groundwater. When this issue reaches the Senate floor this week, it will be Sen. Miller’s last chance to continue Johnson's legacy, proving to all citizens of his district he puts our interests above the frac sand industry's desire to push into our communities without proper regulations in place, threatening our futures with unintended consequences.
NOTE: LSP member Marilyn Frauenkron Bayer read this statement in Winona this morning as several southeast Minnesota citizens prepared to travel to the Capitol to deliver a postcard to Senator Jeremy Miller. The over-sized postcard reads:
"Sen. Miller, as your constituents we were shocked at your vote to kill common-sense provisions to protect trout streams from the frac sand mining industry. The frac sand industry threatens our water, our air, our natural resources, our roads and our economy. Hundreds of citizens as well as county, city and township officials have clearly and strongly asked for strong state regulations of the frac sand industry. You have not listened. We are calling on you to start putting the well-being of the citizens of your district above frac sand special interests."