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Wake up, Winona County (03/13/2013)
From: Sarah Miles

So I’m looking into the old Hart Creamery building which is for sale. It’s a beauty but in need of serious, expensive and time-consuming repair. Without going into much detail, I think it may be a good choice for a retail outlet having to do with tourism and locally produced food. I know many people who have driven past this fortress of a building and wished that someone would restore it. I would love to be that someone (providing I can swing the financing). There’s just one problem: it’s situated along an expected high-traffic route for frac sand transportation. I can’t imagine that the near-constant passing of large fast-moving trucks spewing diesel fumes and possibly blowing sand would be helpful for business.

The Driftless Area, this beautiful, bluff-laced landscape we live in, has a well established precedent for conservation of our precious natural resources along with agri- and eco-tourism. The University of Wisconsin – Center for Integrated Agriculture Systems has a program titled the Driftless Food and Farm Project which works with the region’s sustainable agriculture farmers, processors, distributors, chefs, planning commissions and others to define the culinary identity of the region and develop agritourism. The Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota supports the development and enhancement of sustainable farming systems through farmer-to-farmer networking, innovation and education. The Driftless Area is also known for apple production, grass-fed beef and has a market for forest botanicals, especially mushrooms. In 2009, this region was federally recognized by the Treasury Department’s Tax and Trade Bureau as the largest winemaking region in the country.

Organizations such as the Midwest Driftless Area Restoration Effort, the Land Stewardship Project, the Blufflands Alliance, the Mississippi Valley Conservancy, the Prairie Enthusiasts, Trout Unlimited and others seek to preserve our sacred, unique and beloved landscape. All four states of the Driftless Area have stream restoration programs which have restored more than 450 miles of stream habitat. All four states have numerous protected areas including forest, savanna, prairie and wetland. If frac sand mining were to continue unchecked, everything that so many have worked to protect, the sustainable way of life that so many farmers have developed here and the agriculture- and scenic-based tourism that is still growing will end. A few will profit vastly, several more will have jobs for a couple of decades and the rest will be left holding a depleted and toxic bag not at all resembling the ornate and beautiful thing it once was.

I hope that the local efforts to check the unlimited, unregulated growth of the frac sand industry will continue and prevail. To think that some people would prefer frac sand entities as job-creators rather than local individuals such as me is disheartening. Whenever I see a “Sand = Jobs” sign, my throat tightens. If you actually look into this topic, you will find that jobs for local people in this industry are quite limited. When you consider the horrible trade-off of a long-term, sustainable local economy for a short-term corporate binge on our very landscape, it doesn’t add up. Not even close. There are other pursuits that have a well-established linkage to monetary gain. Try putting one of these slogans in your yard: “Genocide = Jobs,” “Global warfare = Jobs,” “Stockpiling enough nuclear arms to destroy the planet many times over = Jobs.” Come on Winona County – wake up and smell the stupidity. 


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