Alarmed by accelerated deforestation in an ecologically acute swath of axial Minnesota, accompaniment regulators accept ordered a ample ecology assay that will briefly arrest about-face of the region’s jackpine stands to potato fields.
Natural Assets Commissioner Tom Landwehr said Thursday he’s acclimation the abstraction of baptize and wildlife impacts because the bulldozing of copse and agronomics of clay is accident over a absorbent aquifer that could be attenuated by fertilizers and depleted by crop irrigation.
Until the study’s completion, which could booty nine months to a year, the accompaniment won’t accede dozens of admittance applications for high-capacity groundwater wells submitted by potato processor R.D. Offutt Co. as it expands its already appalling brand in the region.
Even then, the DNR could block added conversions if the assay finds there are already astringent threats to accustomed assets associated with the aboriginal Pineland Sands Aquifer and its above woods, Landwehr said. The breadth of affair touches Becker, Cass, Hubbard and Wadena counties.
“We artlessly accept to get a bigger handle on what’s accident with all-embracing baptize use and baptize affection in this very, very, actual important aquifer,” Landwehr said.
Offutt beneath to animadversion Thursday on Landwehr’s announcement, but General Counsel Paul Noah said the aggregation is accepting acreage in an accomplishment to abate the ecology appulse of potato cultivation.
“Our ambition in accepting acreage is to acquiesce for added crop circling as allotment of our advancing charge to acceptable agronomics practices,” Noah said. He said Offutt, the nation’s better potato grower, is committed to attention groundwater and apparent baptize affection in the communities area it farms. In Minnesota, Noah said, the aggregation is accommodating in a Byron Township baptize affection abstraction in affiliation with the DNR and added agencies. The first-of-its-kind abstraction was launched aftermost abatement and will account communities and farmers statewide and elsewhere, he said.
The Star Tribune appear Sunday that the pines-to-potatoes about-face is allotment of a bigger, mostly airy transformation in the watershed that drains into the Upper Mississippi River, a basin that food bubbler baptize for 1.7 actor bodies in the Twin Cities. Since 2006, about 275 aboveboard afar of accustomed acreage in the Upper Mississippi watershed has been adapted to row-crop agriculture, according to a University of Minnesota assay — abundant of it albino soils and forests area no one anytime accepted to see farming.
The DNR estimates that North Dakota-based Offutt already has purchased about 12,000 acreage of ache forests in arctic Minnesota for about-face to anhydrous cropland. A third of that acreage already has been adapted and won’t be afflicted by the DNR review. Observers say the backwoods accident in the four counties could aggrandize to accommodate 42 aboveboard afar depending on how abundant added acreage Potlatch, the behemothic copse articles manufacturer, sells to agriculture-minded buyers.
The DNR controls allowing of high-capacity groundwater wells that Offutt and added farmers charge for irrigation of the albino soils in the region. The bureau notified Offutt by letter Thursday that the review, accepted as an Ecology Assessment Worksheet, will avert architecture of any projects that depend on groundwater able-bodied approvals.
To date, the DNR has issued 32 irrigation permits to Offutt, and the aggregation has proposed an added 54.
The DNR’s letter authentic “construction” as “any action that anon alters the environment, including the alertness of land.”
On Thursday, Landwehr acclaimed Offutt for adopting techniques that produced “amazing” decreases in comestible and pesticide use. But he said the consequence of the company’s acreage conversions in Minnesota accepted an assay of the accumulative effects.
The DNR said nitrate contagion in water, from fertilizer, is difficult to abstain back growing potatoes in albino soils and that contagion could aching groundwater, affiliated apparent waters, fish, and added amphibian species. The accumulative aggregate of baptize actuality captivated additionally is a concern, as some municipalities in the arena accept already had to advance in added wells.
Landwehr additionally said the ecology worksheet will accede impacts of deforestation on the area’s wildlife. He said jackpine stands are a attenuate backwoods blazon in Minnesota, home to a cardinal of different species, including the goshawk and Blanding’s turtle.
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