Northeast Minnesota is where mining, recreation, and stewardship of natural resources intersect in ways that define us as Minnesotans. In the same towns populated with heavy-equipment repair shops, hoist and rigging contractors, and other mining-related industries, you also see bait and tackle stores, outdoor adventure outfitters, and ski equipment suppliers.
Minnesota’s minerals, lakes, rivers, and forests are not only part of our history, our future and our identity, but also part of the very heart of our mission at the Department of Natural Resources.
The DNR has a three-part mission: to work with Minnesotans to conserve natural resources, provide recreation opportunities, and provide for commercial uses of natural resources that create a sustainable quality of life.
At the DNR, we strive to ensure all of these elements work together to achieve the best natural resource outcomes for our state.
This mission isn’t just conceptual for the DNR. This blend of environmental protection, recreation, and commercial use defines our work daily across the agency. For instance, we both promote and regulate fishing. We protect natural resources in state parks, and we welcome visitors to use them. Similarly, we encourage appropriate mineral development and regulate mining projects through environmental review and permitting.
When it comes to mining, this balance is articulated in three goals that the DNR has for mineral development:
Goal 1: Minimize environmental impact of mining by maintaining high permitting and reclamation standards, conducting rigorous research, and ensuring compliance.
Goal 2: Advocate for mineral development strategies that seek balance between environmental protection and economic development that supports job growth and communities.
Goal 3: Excel as stewards of public mineral ownership by conducting innovative research, optimizing revenue generation, and supporting a diversified minerals economy in Minnesota.
I’ve said many times since becoming DNR commissioner that there is a challenge and opportunity articulated in our goals to advocate for mineral development and balance that with environmental protection. Our decisions at the DNR are better informed by having these multiple roles.
Our professional staff have access to better information than ever, and we are able to integrate it into our decisions every day.
This helps us bring sound science, data, collaboration, transparency, and a continuous improvement mindset to our oversight of mining projects.
The challenge, of course, is there is passion and diversity of opinions around mining. The DNR understands and welcomes that. Our mining-related decisions are complex and require careful application of science, law, and policy. It is inevitable that people will not always agree with our decisions.
But our opportunity is to bring together the passion and diversity of perspectives into a robust discussion, and then to listen carefully to input, consider it fully, and be transparent as we make our decisions based on sound science and state law. This is the spirit of One Minnesota.
All too often, natural resources issues are framed as issues that divide us, such as “rural versus urban” or “pro-job versus pro-environment.” Forging Minnesota’s future does not require picking winners and losers. It requires us to work together.
Minnesota has a rich mining history and a strong legacy of environmental protection. The DNR has demonstrated its ability to work within its mission to ensure we continue this balance into the future.
I hope you’ll join me in that mission.
Sarah Strommen is commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
Learn more about Minnesota’s mineral resources and the DNR’s mining work, visit mndnr.gov/lands_minerals.