Concerns crop up at UMore Park

Agriculture researchers must be consulted about UMore mining.

Les Everett

I appreciate Nora LeinenâÄôs effort to bring closure to the UMore Park controversy in her March 10 column. However, serious issues remain unresolved. Most urgently, strip mining will begin late this year in the most important agricultural research areas of UMore Park. There is a breathtaking lack of planning for where this research will go in either the short or long term. For agricultural scientists, field and livestock facilities are part of their laboratory. That laboratory is about to be demolished. The University of Minnesota central administration points to the northern part of Vermillion Highlands, a 2,800-acre portion of the original Rosemount Research Station owned by the University but sold to the state in exchange for TCF Bank Stadium financing. A close look at the soils map in that area shows a patchwork of disturbed soils mixed with small blocks of intact agricultural land, a pattern resulting from the former ordnance plant. Clearly, it is not a suitable replacement for the contiguous undisturbed agricultural soils of the western one-third of what is now called UMore Park. Agricultural research is a long-term investment, requiring relatively uniform blocks of land to be carefully managed over time. Some crops are perennials and many experiments have multi-year treatments where several years of investment can be lost if interrupted. There are two choices. Preferably, we could recognize that the economy put a hiatus on demand for construction materials, leaving time to shift gravel mining eastward, where the old ordinance plant left disturbed soils that need attention anyway. The second, less desirable choice is to develop a serious plan (including financing) for moving agricultural research and facilities to a site that provides long-term stability, suitable soils and maintains reasonable proximity to campus for access by faculty and students. The absence of active agricultural researchers in the core decision-making leading up to this situation is a major problem that must be resolved now. Les Everett, Agronomist and Program Coordinator University Water Resources Center