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Letter: Clean water, land and legacy question to be on Nov. 4 election ballot

As parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and voting members of our State of Minnesota, what is the collective responsibility to our future generations in terms of clean water and the natural environment?

Do we expect the waters of the present as well as the future to be safe to drink and satisfactory for swimming? Do we want our lands to provide habitat as well as food in abundance, and our culture and its history to thrive and provide a sound road map for generations to come? If so, what is the plan to provide for this all important future?

Fortunately, a giant step towards protecting Minnesota's great outdoors -- and our Minnesota and Detroit Lakes way of life -- was made during the first week of the legislative session, when lawmakers approved the Clean Water, Land and Legacy constitutional amendment. The next step will be up to voters on Nov. 4.

The ballot question, nearly a decade in the making, asks voters to amend the state constitution to dedicate an increase of three-eighths of one percent on the state sales tax (groceries and clothing are exempt) to protect Minnesota's lakes, rivers and streams; forests and natural areas; arts and cultural heritage; parks, trails and wildlife habitat; and drinking water.

The funds raised would be protected by the constitution against utilization for other random purposes, unlike the current Minnesota Lottery.

The allocation is as follows: 33 percent for clean water, 33 percent for land protection, 19.75 percent for the arts and cultural heritage, and 14.25 percent for parks and trails. In addition, the increase would sunset in 2034 -- one of the very few times that any tax increase comes with an end date.

Passing this amendment would be great news for the future of our state and the Detroit Lakes area. Many of us remember brighter, clearer, cleaner days on our lakes and rivers. Personally, I want my children and grandchildren to have the same opportunities.

We are so fortunate to have at our back doors multitudes of ways we can enjoy our Minnesota waters, and it would be a shame to see them limited and in some cases, prohibited.

This is precisely why we so badly need to pass this amendment. One third of the money raised will go towards clean water, providing funds to test and clean up Minnesota's lakes and rivers.

Of the waters tested by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, 40 percent are contaminated with human and animal waste, excess phosphorus, and other contaminants. Unfortunately, fish advisories abound in our state.

For information on the health of our Minnesota lakes, or even your own favorite area lake, go to and find out how clean and safe that specific lake is for fishing and swimming.

In addition, pressures on our lands are also increasing. And with our state population projected to grow by 1.2 million people in the next 25 years, we could lose very significant acreage of our natural areas to roads, housing and other developments.

The Detroit Lakes area will certainly not be immune to any of this. With our plentiful water resources, we'll definitely need thoughtful policy and monetary wherewithal to protect the 412 Lakes Area. Without clean water to drink or swim in, without fish that we can consume, without the wonderful aesthetics of our woodlands and prairies, Detroit Lakes would be without its trademark.

On Nov. 4, will you be able to look beyond the pure self interest of the moment, stare into the eyes of the very children that represent your personal legacy and vote yes to enhance the water, the cultural heritage and the natural environment required to sustain them long after you're gone?

The Clean Water, Land and Legacy amendment is a once in a lifetime chance to invest in the quality of life of our future generations, here in Detroit Lakes, the surrounding area and in the state of Minnesota as a whole.

We cannot afford to sit on the sideline and simply hope that all will be well. We can, however, exercise our right to vote positively and take upon ourselves the responsibility of bettering the future of all Minnesotans.

And be sure to tell your friends and family members about the amendment, look for it on the ballot and remember that not voting on the question is the same as a no vote.

Thank you on behalf of all future generations. -- William Henke, Detroit Lakes

(Henke wrote this on behalf of the Prairie Woods Chapter of the Izaak Walton League)