Rural Minnesotans Talk Climate Change Priorities

How will Minnesota’s rural communities weather climate change in the coming years? That’s the big question behind the final session of a state-level meeting in St. Paul today.

State agencies and residents are talking about how Minnesota’s rural communities already are being affected by climate change. The idea of today’s meeting is to help policymakers understand the priorities of the people whose economies are tied closely to natural resources, including agriculture, forestry and tourism.

Anna Claussen, director of rural strategies with the Minnesota-based Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, said rural communities face some unique challenges.

“Rural areas have lower housing quality with lower energy efficiency on average and greater taxation on some of their infrastructure with less tax base to pay for it,” she explained. “So, we’re looking at addressing what programs exist and how they’re delivered to meet those needs.”

The IATP hosted Rural Climate Dialogues meetings in Morris, Grand Rapids and Winona over the course of more than a year, where residents of all ages and backgrounds expressed their concerns over local and state responses to climate change.

After looking through the comments, Claussen said they found several areas where public and private agencies could help. Some ideas include setting up new workforce training programs in communities that already have started transitioning from traditional energy sources to wind and solar solutions.

“Rural communities often don’t have the same resources as the metropolitan area does,” she said. “So, we’re creatively looking at seeing what do rural communities need. And that will be an important part of this conversation, is to identify where they think they need more support.”

Claussen said one of the other big goals is to help rural areas figure out sustainable ways to preserve their natural resources, such as lakes and forests, for future generations.

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