MN Voters 2006 Approve More Than $31M for Conservation in 2006

Andover, Minn. – A $2 million bond for water, wildlife and natural habitat areas won with 54% approval in this fast-growing community with 40% of its land area now in unprotected open space.

Plymouth, Minn. – Voters approved raising $9 million to acquire land for open space, greenways and parks, after raising $2.235 million in 1995 to acquire parkland and build trails. A resounding 64% of voters said “yes” to helping create a community playfield, parks and the Northwest Greenway to serve the new residents Plymouth expects by 2030.

“Minnesota voters are willing to pay to protect our clean waters and natural lands for our children and grandchildren,” said Susan Schmidt, director of The Trust for Public Land’s Minnesota Office. “They know that these lakes and natural lands play an important role in preserving our quality of life. With our natural lands diminishing, we cannot afford to wait to protect the water quality of our rivers, lakes and streams, and to conserve natural areas, parks, and habitat for fish and wildlife.”

These results bring the Minnesota total for local conservation measures to 27 ballot questions since 1988, with 22 approved, raising over $111 million for land and water conservation. The passage rate is 81%, higher than the national average of 76%. Compared with other states like New Jersey, Minnesota does not have a specific state program committed to matching local conservation investments. As Minnesotans continue to say “yes” to conservation at the local level, interest is growing to increase state matching funds for land protection for water quality, parks and natural areas.

Investments in land conservation are essential to the health of our communities. Such investments protect air and water, safeguard wildlife habitat, create critical recreation opportunities close to home, and boost local economies by stabilizing property taxes, spurring revitalization, and supporting area businesses. A new economic values study of Washington County land sales from 2002 to March 2006 reports that homes within 100 feet of protected natural areas are worth over $15,000 more than those further away.

While in 2006 Minnesota voters did not have a statewide conservation ballot question, they are likely to be asked to consider a statewide ballot measure in 2008 to increase funding for clean water, parks, and wildlife land. Since 1988, Minnesotans have passed three statewide measures to establish and rededicate the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund.