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Annual Wetlands Summit to address wetland values, dedicated funding

A diverse alliance of hunters, environmentalists, government agencies, and citizens have organized a day-long summit highlighting the importance of wetlands.

Event organizers expect up to 350 people for the interactive educational event, which will be held at Normandale Community College in Bloomington from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Saturday Feb. 21.

"Wetlands provide a diverse set of values to our natural environment and to human society. The 2009 Wetlands Summit will demonstrate just how critical wetlands are and why they deserve our protection," said Bill Henke, summit co-chair and a member of the Izaak Walton League of America.

Themes for the summit are the economic and non-economic values of wetlands, and the impact of dedicated funding on wetlands restoration and preservation. Morning sessions will include a presentation on the impacts of wetland loss and a talk by Mike Kilgore, interim chair of the Lessard Outdoor Heritage Council. The Council will recommend projects to be funded by the sales tax increase voters approved in the last general election.

"We now sit at a crossroads," said Harvey Nelson, co-chair of the summit. "Wetlands are threatened on many fronts, but when the citizens of Minnesota voted in November 2008 to dedicate funds to the environment and the arts, they provided the opportunity of a lifetime to increase protection and restoration of wetlands across the state. Generations of Minnesotans will benefit."

Afternoon sessions are designed to encourage discussion among conference attendees and the invited speakers. Agencies represented include the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Advocacy groups represented include the Minnesota Division of the Izaak Walton League of America, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, the Minnesota Waterfowl Association, Ducks Unlimited, Delta Waterfowl, the National Wildlife Federation, the Minnesota Conservation Federation and the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy.

This diverse coalition has organized around the positive impacts that wetlands provide. Members of the public are encouraged to attend; a registration fee of $25 per person ($15 for students) will cover registration, morning and afternoon refreshments and a noon lunch. Parking is readily available. Pre-registration is advised.

For more information or to register, call (651) 221-0215 or e-mail