The value of nature, the cost of an oil boom, returning sanity to the election process

U of M economist measures nature's benefits with dollars

Scientists in Minnesota are trying to do something that may be impossible: put a dollar value on nature.

Nature performs many important functions that benefit humans -- not just offering beauty but cleaning water, taming floods and pollinating crops. Some researchers think it's time to put a dollar value on those natural processes.

University of Minnesota economic researcher Steve Polasky is building on ideas first presented in the field of applied economics back in the 1960s. The idea is kind of a merger of ecology and economics to identify services that nature provides, and assign a monetary value to those services.

-- MPR News reporter Stephanie Hemphill.

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Virginia police chief says tensions high after return to work

Duluth News Tribune: "Dana Waldron, Virginia's chief of police, spent the past year facing off against the city council and the Police Civil Service Commission after a grievance and a "no confidence" vote were filed by police officers in his department."

Oil boom severely straining North Dakota economy

The oil boom has padded state coffers and brought record growth to the western part of the state, but it's also thrown the economy out of equilibrium. MPR News

What's next in the world of action sports distance jumping?

Minnesota's Levi LaVallee beat his own world record in snowmobile jumping. More from ESPN

Local view: Return the election process to what the founders envisioned

Thomas B. Wheeler: "Is there anything more fundamentally American than voting to elect our president? If so, how did we ever arrive at the present presidential primary process?"

More on the 2012 election and the Iowa caucuses over at the Big Story Blog.