So unMinnesotan…

The White Earth Nation of Ojibwe proposes to preserve 2034 acres of wildlife habitat with 6,500 feet along the Wild Rice River using some of the Legacy money. Members of the Outdoor Heritage Council who make recommendations for spending Legacy money, recommended this proposal, a good choice. The habitat potential is outstanding.

But the House environment committee, headed up by Rep. Denny McNamara, decided that the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources should be the grant recipient even though DNR did not ask to be the recipient, the White Earth Nation has the purchase agreement for the land, and the land is within the White Earth Reservation.

For the record, The White Earth Nation is experience in restoring and managing lands with wild rice beds and will open it up for public hunting and fishing. In accordance with White Earth Nation hunting regulations there will not be wolf hunting on the property.

When the Legacy bill came to the House floor for a vote, Rep. Persell offered an amendment that would have the White Earth Nation purchase the land and restore the proposal as originally recommended. Rep. Flanagan spoke in support. Hear what they had to say:

Rep. McNamera spoke in opposition saying that having DNR own the land, “solved the problem.” The only problem Rep. McNamera mentioned was that the seasons for DNR and the tribes are not the same.

Projects recommended by the Outdoor Heritage Council don’t usually face opposition. The StarTribune editorial board said “(o)pposition to the project has not been based on its merits, but on the tribe’s involvement. That’s wrong.” The StarTribune has it right.

It is time to get the lead out. For children, that should be all of it. Not just some of it.

The Minnesota Department of Health declares ( burden report page 8 ) “(t)here is no safe level of exposure to lead.” So far so good. The Department also says “(e)levated blood lead levels in young children are associated with adverse health effects, including learning impairment, behavioral problems and even death at very high levels” and “(t)esting for lead poisoning is important as it often occurs with no identifiable symptoms.” There is scientific consensus supporting these statements.

But then the Department tells us that their standard for investigation and remediation of lead sources is 5 ug/dL. How can this be?

Many years ago several colleagues and I tried to get the Department of Health to reduce the threshold for an elevated blood level which was then at 10 ug/dL. We were unsuccessful. The reason given by the Department was cost. The Department was unwilling to ask for the necessary appropriation.

In “The Costs of Childhood Blood Lead Poisoning” section of its “Economic Burden of the Environment on Childhood Disease in Minnesota 2014,” the Department of Health points out that the economic burden of childhood lead poisoning in Minnesota is enormous. It does not do a similar calculation of the cost of prevention.

However, the report does point out that children in poverty are at greater risk for lead poisoning. The report does not say that these children are disproportionately children of color, but that is likely the case.

Flint is the billboard that states the obvious. Elevated lead levels would not have been tolerated if the children involved were all middle class, all white.

The Minnesota Department of Health does not need additional legislative authority to do what needs to be done and that is set the lead level for children at zero. After all, it already knows the science: “(t)here is no safe level of exposure to lead.”