As a community coordinator for both Conservation Minnesota and Audubon Minnesota, I was privileged enough to be able to attending an early morning birding event a few weeks ago. This event featured representatives of Audubon Minnesota talking with a number of legislators and their staff about Important Birding Areas in their local communities.
One of the most interesting aspects about the event, aside from the huge variety of wildlife we were able to see, was where it was located. You might think that the only way you can get to a genuine wild area these days is by driving hours into Greater Minnesota, but you’d be quite wrong. The event itself was held by the old Cedar Avenue Bridge over Long Meadow Lake in East Bloomington.
Located just a few miles from the Mall Of America, the area surrounding the old Cedar Avenue bridge is part of the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, which itself is just one part of the 70 mile long corridor of undeveloped open spaces that line the Minnesota River from Pike Island to Henderson, Minnesota. It is one of the best examples of our state’s proud tradition of preserving open areas for wildlife and recreation even in the heart of a metropolitan area of over 3.5 million people.
There just aren’t a lot of places left in the country were you can see Great Blue Herons and Egrets flying along with airplanes from a major international airport.
Unfortunately, the whole area along the Minnesota River has been suffering from lack of environmental stewardship for decades now. For example, the state’s biggest toxic landfill is located in Burnsville just a stone throws away from the river, while the river itself has fallen victim to massive quantities of agricultural run-off from farms upstream.
All of which clearly illustrates why holding events with community leaders and elected officials at places like the Old Cedar Avenue Bridge are so important. The question of if we want to preserve and project the natural areas we have everywhere in this state is incredibly important to all sorts of people, but often times special interests and hard nose ideology can take the place of common sense conservation in debates in the State Capitol. And so if we want to preserve the wild areas that are oftentimes located in the heart of the Twin Cities we have to constantly remind our elected leaders about why they are so valuable to us.
Otherwise we could see these areas turned into polluted landfills or more suburban parking lots within our own lifetimes.