McDonald’s is eating up portions of forestland in northern Minnesota, with plans to convert the land to harvest potato crops, a necessary component of the fast-food chain’s beloved french fries.
Roughly 1,500 acres of forest land was sold by Potlatch Corporation, which runs paper mills, to Ronald Offutt, who is already converting the land to potato fields.
Those living near the forest lands are expressing concern over the transformation, highlighting possible complications related to runoff from the potato farms and the loss of natural habitat for area wildlife. Minnesota Rep. Jean Wagenius (DFL-Minneapolis) is already questioning whether that runoff will pollute the Pinelands Sands aquifer, located near the what is now forestland.
“It’s in excellent shape because it’s been under forestland,” Wagenius told Minnesota Public Radio, referring to the aquifer, which covers a 1,000 square mile area, stretching throughout the state.
“Expanding and projected acceleration of irrigated agriculture within this area pose challenges to maintain the region’s working forests,” states a request-for-funding proposal submitted to the Department of Natural Resource’s Forest Legacy Coordinator. The proposal was titled, “Protecting Pinelands Sands Aquifer Forestlands and Aquatic Habitat Phase 1,” for fiscal year 2014-15.
The Pollution Control Agency, along with the DNR and Department of Health have indicated the aquifer is susceptible to nitrogen pollution generated from potato fields, according to Minnesota Public Radio.
The plan to replace Minnesota’s treasured forests with potato farmland is also causing critics to question the commitment of McDonald’s to the environment. While the fast-food chain isn’t necessarily known for its eco-friendly practices, it at least tries to be. On its website, it hosts a page dedication to “The Road to Sustainability,” where it boasts its commitment to green practices.
“Building a sustainable McDonalds involves all facets of our business,” it states.
Wagenius is calling McDonald’s out for its most recent involvement with the clearing of land in Northern Minnesota for the sake of potato farming, claiming it runs contrary to the corporation’s supposed mission.
“I think it is difficult if not impossible to protect groundwater, and of course when you cut down a forest you are losing that habitat,” she said.
Northern Minnesota forests are home to black bears, white-tailed deer, moose, timber wolves and more than 130 species of birds, according to the University of Minnesota Extension’s Forestry department.