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Editorial: Flint Hills efforts deserve recognition

Flint Hills Resources hasn't always had the best reputation when it comes to environmental matters. It hasn't always deserved to, either.

Part of that is unavoidable. When you work in the oil industry, you're never going to be pristine. But Flint Hills has done work to help the environment. In recent years the refinery has partnered with government and other groups to restore and preserve a significant stretch of natural area near its Pine Bend refinery.

Part of that work benefits the refinery. It creates a buffer between the plant and its neighbors. But it also protects some valuable natural habitat, and that is good for the environment.

The project has helped to protect hundreds of acres along the Mississippi River. The 1,800 acre Pine Bend Bluffs Natural Area has been designated by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources as an area of outstanding biological diversity. In 2002 the area was named one of 10 Twin Cities Treasures by the Embrace Open Space campaign of the McKnight Foundation.

There is further evidence of the project's success in this week's edition of the Town Pages. Flint Hills has reported a record year in its nurturing of a bluebird population on the property. Eighty-nine of the birds hatched this year, and all of them left the nest in good shape.

That speaks to the commitment of the refinery as a whole, but also to the dedication of the employees who proposed the program in the first place, and who have worked over the years to help it grow and succeed.

It is a small thing, perhaps, but it is significant. And it should be recognized.