Help Save Our Farms from Being Stolen and Flooded

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My name is Mitch Magnusson and, together with my son Matthew, we are carrying on our family’s tradition of farming in Roseau, Minnesota. This Thanksgiving, I’m especially thankful for the ability to prosper from the land that my family has farmed now for four generations. There’s just nothing like owning your own land, seeing the fruit of your labor, and teaching your kids to do the same. But our farming heritage and years of hard work could soon be stolen from us. Local watershed district officials want to force easements on our productive farmland for a project that would render our land useless. 

The project would retain water in the basin at times when it would normally be empty, using gates to shut off flow into and out of the basin to create a permanent marsh. Doing so would mean that normal runoff, instead of harmlessly collecting in the basin, would overrun the rest of the river and channels that border our farmland and homes south of the basin.

In other words, the project would either force us to give up our land, or flood that land and make our multi-generational farms unusable. Over the decades of working this land, I and other farmers in the project area have installed our own culverts to manage seasonal flooding. We learned to adapt to this natural process and know that the Watershed District’s proposal would leave us worse off, all while taking a full third of my family’s farm.

An independent engineer’s report found that the proposed project would only have minor flood reduction benefits downstream. According to the watershed district’s own engineering report, the project won’t reduce the risk of major floods. And rather than create new wildlife habitat, this project would simply drive off existing upland game to attract waterfowl.

To try and save our land, we created the Roseau County Landowners Coalition. Made up of over fifty of my fellow farmers, neighbors, and community members, we are not opposed to a smaller flood control project that honors property rights. That’s what this project was originally supposed to be. Back in 2014, we proposed having two ditches added to increase the flow of water out of the area, but somewhere along the way, two ditches turned into water control gates, embankments, and the theft of our farms.

The thing is, we are willing to work with anyone who respects the decades of work that have gone into building our families’ American dream. But talks on other projects can’t start until the watershed district abandons this current project.  The current project threatens to take thousands of acres of our land by force, and we can’t possibly come to the table with our livelihoods hanging by a thread.  

The threat of losing what we’ve worked so hard to own is real. At a working group meeting this November, the Roseau River Watershed District Board Chairman would not commit to disavowing the use of eminent domain in this project.

My family and I are thankful for another year on the farm, but we need your help so that it’s not our last.

Will you please help us protect our farm and our way of life? Sign this petition today. It's also really helpful if you share our petition on social media.  

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