A Breath of Fresh Air

“When we ended our cruise and our canoe grated on a sandy beach for the last time our hearts were heavy and yet how happy.”

Sigurd Olson

July 22, 1921*

Before Sigurd Olson became famous as one of the founding fathers of the Boundary Water Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) and authored such classics as The Singing Wilderness and North Country he wrote little articles about the canoe country in local papers and sports magazines. The above quote came from what is believed to be one of his first such articles in The Nashwaauk newspaper. He had just started as a high school teacher in Nashwaauk and had yet to hone his literary skills. Nonetheless the article shows a little poetic flair that would become the hallmark of his classic books.

When this blog is posted my son and I will likely be on the last leg of our weeklong trip into the BWCAW in search of the elusive spring Lake Trout. After what has been a challenging legislative session over the last 2 years, the rejuvenating qualities of the wilderness are much needed for this weary lobbyist. My Conservation Minnesota lobbying partner, Molly Pederson, and I have been playing mostly on the defense lately. This can be somewhat depressing after a very successful run prior to the session. Not so long ago we played critical roles in the passage of the Clean Water Legacy Act, the largest dedicated funding package in the nation in the Clean Water, Land and Legacy constitutional amendment, a significant Mercury reduction rule for power plants, the most aggressive renewable energy standard in the nation, the creation of the first State Park at Lake Vermillion in three decades and some of the largest investments in protecting wildlife habitat in our state’s history.

Unfortunately we have not seen such successes lately. Governor Dayton, blinded by a need to provide us with a football legacy, has not put forward any meaningful proposals for protecting our great outdoors. The legislature, under the false cover of job creation, has attempted to roll back some of our environmental protections. Several legislators have pushed for deep cuts in conservation programs and have attempted to raid the Clean Water, Land and Legacy constitutional amendment dedicated revenue for other purposes.

We have been successful at holding off many of these attacks on our great outdoors thanks to the strong voice of people like you around Minnesota who value our lakes rivers and wild places. Leaving them in a better condition than we received them is simply a Minnesota value regardless of your party identification and where you live. The team at Conservation Minnesota will be working hard to put forward a positive agenda over the next year. With your help we are confident we will be able to turn the tide and go on the offensive again.

In the meantime a piece of advice for this coming summer as we enter the Memorial Day weekend. While it is still here, get out in the wilds for a little hunting, fishing or just spending time with your children, grandchildren or a friend. Sit quietly atop a ridge soaking in the beauty of a Minnesota vista. Meander through a forest and find as many birds as you can. Let your mind slow down and disconnect from the pace created by these machines we use for business. If you do I will promise you at least one thing over our enemies to the great outdoors — those deskbound corporate cogs with their minds on their balance sheets and their brains hypnotized by their iPads — you’ll likely outlive those poor stressed beings and you’ll be rejuvenated for the battle to protect those places we love come next session.

*The Nashwaauk volume XII No. 28, July 22, 1921.

About John Tuma

John is a former state legislator and litigation attorney. He served in the Minnesota House of Representatives for eight years from the Northfield area, beginning in 1994. Elected as a Republican, John was known for his independent thinking and ability to work across party lines. He is well-known in Minnesota state government circles.
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