ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A recent study says the economic benefits of preserving and restoring land in the upper Mississippi River’s headwaters region nearly outweigh the costs.

The Nature Conservancy released a report with St. Paul-based Ecolab Inc. that warns of growing threats to the Upper Mississippi watershed, which stretches from the headwaters at Lake Itasca to the Twin Cities. The study cautions that forests being converted to farmland or developments can impact water quality.

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Minnesota Public Radio News reports that the Virginia-based environmental nonprofit has identified 108,000 acres of Mississippi headwaters that should be preserved and another 100,000 acres that should be restored to grasslands or wetlands.

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The study says protecting the roughly 200,000 acres would cost up to $600 million, but it would yield almost $500 million in direct and indirect economic benefits.

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