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Interior secretary visits Minn.

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Interior Secretary Ken Salazar
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar was in Minnesota Sunday to tour the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Bloomington.
MPR Photo/Jess Mador

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is urging states to take advantage of federal stimulus money for environmental projects. 

The secretary was in Minnesota Sunday to tour the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Bloomington. 

His visit was intended to highlight $11 million in funding the federal government is investing in Minnesota parks and wildlife areas. 

Nationally, the Department of Interior is investing $3 billion on projects designed to stimulate the economy and protect the environment. 

Salazar said environmental conservation goes hand in hand with future economic recovery. 

"We only have about four of these urban wildlife refuges around our country, and so as we move forward we need to make sure that we understand the realities of these times and that the great urban wildlife refuges are going to be a part of that future," he said.

Salazar said Minnesota is doing a great job of educating people about local environmental projects. 

"In the midst of a population area of three million people, we have an opportunity to provide those kinds of opportunities and to connect people with our landscapes as we do here," said Salazar. "Three hundred thousand people a year come here -- that's a lot."

The money from the president's economic stimulus package includes $151,000 to replace a pedestrian bridge on a trail at the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, and $35,000 to replace a deteriorating loading dock. 

Salazar visited the Apostle Islands in Wisconsin Saturday, touting more than $116,000 in projects to improve the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.

 Salazar also highlighted $5 million to fix up the park's lighthouses, which was included in the park's 2009 budget. 

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)