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Saturday, June 15, 2024

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The Supreme Court throws out a Trump-era ban on gun bump stocks; a look at how social media algorithms and Shakespearian villains have in common; and states receive federal funding to clean up legacy mine pollution.

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The Supreme Court for now protects access to abortion drug mifepristone, while Senate Republicans block a bill protecting access to in-vitro fertilization. Wisconsin's Supreme Court bans mobile voting sites, and colleges deal with funding cuts as legislatures target diversity programs.

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As summer nears, America's newest and largest international dark sky sanctuary beckons, rural job growth is up, but full recovery remains elusive, rural Americans living in prison towns support a transition, while birth control is more readily available in rural areas.

To shield public waterways from runoff, MN takes an inventory dive

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Friday, May 24, 2024   

What might seem like an under-the-radar administrative task could end up being a lifesaver for Minnesota waterways in need of safeguards against agricultural runoff.

Lawmakers have paved the way for a crucial list to be updated. In this year's legislative session, a change was made to clarify the definition of public waters, and funding was provided for a several-year process to update Minnesota's Public Waters Inventory.

Carly Griffity, water program director for the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, said these moves mean more lakes and streams will likely qualify for required stretches of vegetation, known as buffer strips, to keep pollutants such as nitrates out of the water.

"It really is a real-world issue that impacts communities," she said.

The law change stemmed from a legal case about a western Minnesota creek that reached the state Supreme Court. The list update was a compromise with agricultural groups seeking certainty for farmers as they plan land use. Lawmakers also increased penalties for violators of buffer-strip requirements. The collective action follows substantial growth in large livestock operations in Minnesota since 1991.

While her organization applauded these moves, Griffith suggested there's more to do to limit pollutants from reaching water sources.

"We have data from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency that [show] on average, cropland drain tile contributes about 70% of nitrogen to Minnesota's surface waters," she said, "and in some areas of the state, like the Minnesota River Valley, that number is even higher."

She referred to subsurface drainage from farms that bypass buffer strips. The state has carried out other strategies to slow fertilizer runoff, but not all efforts have been successful. Recently, the federal Environmental Protection Agency ordered Minnesota to be more aggressive in addressing this problem in the southeastern part of the state.


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