Thursday, February 16, 2006

ACTION ITEM: The Alliance's First Action Item

Minnesota River Watershed Alliance members are moving forward on an action item to obtain local support to unlock an additional 15,000 acres of Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) lands in the Minnesota River Watershed. This is a significant undertaking. The ultimate goal is to raise more than $7 million by December 2007; however, any amount raised will make CREP acres available -- there is no minimum requirement. Even $800 will buy an acre of habitat. A local match must be raised to receive Federal funding.

CREP I is a tried and tested program, and its permanent easement means permanent savings for taxpayers. CREP is working now to:

  • Create and generate biological diversity
  • Create and generate water quality
  • Create more habitat
  • Create more recreational opportunities
  • Reduce sediment
  • Control flooding
  • Generate sustainable tourism
  • Create wildlife corridors
  • Reduce ditch maintenance
  • Attract new landowners to the watershed
  • Produce more game birds
  • Raise the tax base
  • Provide aesthetic value
  • Reduces hypoxia zone

Q: Who do I write out the check to and where do I send it?
A: Please make your check out to the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) with “Minnesota River CREP” on the memo line. This is a 100% tax deductible contribution. Your cancelled check will be your receipt.
Mail your check to:
Shannon Fisher
Director of the Minnesota River Board
184 Trafton Science Center South
Minnesota State University, Mankato
Mankato, MN 56001

Q: Will any of my CREP donation money be used for administrative costs?
A: Absolutely no money that you donate for CREP acres will be used for administrative costs.

Q: Where is the land to be put into CREP?
A: There is already a waiting list of interested landowners.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Minnesota River Watershed Alliance

Q: Who can join the Alliance?
A: Anyone who lives or works in the Minnesota River Watershed who wants to work with others to see the Minnesota River Watershed get clean, stay scenic and support a diversity of life.. How is the Alliance funded? Right now we are passing the hat and taking up a collection. We don’t want to get into turf wars about money. This is a volunteer driven effort. If you or your organization can kick in some funds to help pay for a facilitator, room rental, some refreshments, printing and postage, that would be great. Right now we’re raising funds as we go to put on this next meeting.

Q: How does the Alliance operate?
A: As an ad hoc, volunteer group of whoever shows up. No dues, no membership, no paid staff, no home office. We have multiple leaders from all over the watershed and we communicate through e-mail and a web-based bulletin board. We will have an action focus based as much as possible on a consent agenda devised by those who come to Alliance meetings. We plan to meet four times a year. The January 25th meeting was our fifth meeting since we began meeting in 2005. We have adopted an Alliance Agreement that spells out how we work together. You can get a copy faxed to you or e-mailed to you by calling 1-877-269-2873.

Q: Isn’t this a duplication of efforts?
A: Since when have we had an organization in the watershed that gives everyone who cares a voice, that meets at night so regular citizens can attend, has an action focus and doesn’t have a self-preservation agenda? If you know of one, let us know so we can invite them to this next meeting and learn how we join forces with them!

Alliance Agreement: Birth of the Minnesota River Watershed Alliance

Minnesota River Watershed Alliance

Minnesota is a state rich in water resources. We have over 10,000 lakes and 92,000 miles of streams and rivers. Minnesota’s economy is dependent upon our rich waters. The state’s lakes, streams and rivers provide ample opportunities for boating, fishing and swimming for both tourists and Minnesota residents. In addition, the shorelines and valleys of these waters provide critical habitat for our abundant wildlife.

Minnesota’s namesake river, the Minnesota River, continues to face many threats. The loss of lakes, wetlands and natural floodplains throughout the Minnesota River Basin has resulted in increased flooding, pollution and rapid erosion of its riverbanks.

In 1992, former Minnesota Governor Arne Carlson convened a task force to evaluate the condition of the Minnesota River. The task force produced a report entitled the Minnesota River Assessment Project that, among other things, identified the need to restore 200,000 acres of flood plains and wetlands to improve the health of the Minnesota River. Since that time, efforts have been underway to implement the task force’s recommendations.

The Minnesota River Watershed Alliance was convened in early 2005 to forge solutions, to mobilize grassroots action and to speak as a single voice on ecological issues facing the Minnesota River.

Our Vision
We, The Minnesota River Watershed Alliance ("the Alliance"), envision an ecologically healthy Minnesota River and surrounding Watershed. We recognize that the Minnesota River Watershed is home to many of the world’s foremost fresh water prairie lakes, rivers, streams and wetlands.

Our vision for the Minnesota River Watershed is an engaged citizenry and an informed network of decision makers who take action to bring about a vibrant prairie lakes and rivers environment for the people who live and work in the Minnesota River Watershed. We envision a future for the Watershed where the economics of the region are balanced with restoration and enhancement of its natural resources, benefiting current and future generations – down to the Seventh Generation.

Our Mission: Who We Are & What We Stand For
The Alliance is a network of citizens, public agencies and private organizations that communicate the benefits of an ecologically healthy Minnesota River Watershed to others and who actively work toward its improvement and protection.

In order to accomplish our mission, specifically we pledge to work to:

  • Advance federal and state policies that reward landowners who take actions that benefit the Watershed;
  • Restore wetlands and prairie lakes in the Watershed;
  • Review and utilize existing drainage laws, amending when necessary in order to restore wetlands and prairie lakes and to provide economic incentives to landowners who wish to retain water on their lands within the Watershed;
  • Promote “smart growth” and development in the Watershed Communities; &
  • Promote the need to enforce existing laws that impact the Watershed.

For the 2006 – 2007 Calendar Years, a specific activity we have determined to focus collectively on is: The securing of state, federal and private funding to enroll 15,000 acres of ecologically sensitive riparian areas in the Minnesota River Watershed in the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program

How We Work
We, the participants of the Alliance, agree that we will:

  1. Take part in four “face-to-face” meetings a year to be convened by the Alliance.
  2. Debate and Decide with other Alliance participants to select one “Clean up the Minnesota River” issue per calendar year as a priority for Alliance action.
  3. Encourage each other to devote at least four hours a month working on some aspect of the priority Alliance Action or overall Alliance Mission.
  4. Work together to raise adequate funds to support Alliance work. As much as possible, the Alliance will work with funds provided from participant organization, individual and agency contributions. It will not, in the near term establish its own 501(c) 3 non-profit status.

We, the participants of the Alliance, understand that our Alliance will seek “near consensus” when making decisions and that as many decisions as possible will be made by large group discussions at the quarterly interim meetings. For the purposes of this agreement, near consensus shall represent the views of 75% of the people present at any given quarterly meeting. However, we acknowledge the need to elect a Coordinating Team that can make decisions on behalf of the Alliance in between face to face meetings and to direct the action agenda for the group.

Therefore we agree to establish a Coordinating Team of up to 15 representatives that will be elected to accept one year terms at the fall meeting of the Alliance.

Alliance Coordinating Team (hereby referred to as the “C.T.”) Members agree to:

  1. Participate in monthly conference calls with other C.T. Members between meetings.
  2. Respond to e-mail communications with other C.T. Members.
  3. Seek “near consensus” when making decisions. For the purposes of C.T. operations, “Near Consensus” is defined as 75% or more of those present at an C.T. meeting
  4. Oversee Alliance finances and be willing to defend and explain Alliance expenditures.
  5. Serve no more than three consecutive one year terms as an Alliance C.T. Member.

We the participants of the Alliance, agree to commit ourselves, individually and collectively through our respective networks, to support the annual priority issue that has been selected by the Alliance.

Finally, we understand that the Alliance does not preclude us from engaging in independent activities within the Watershed. These independent activities will not be deemed activities of the Alliance.

This agreement provides guiding principles and a framework for Alliance operations. This agreement will be in effect until it is reviewed again in October, 2006.

Dated October 18th, 2005. Ratified by the Following Individuals, Organization’s and Agencies:

Duane Ninneman, Citizens for Big Stone Lake
Brian Wojtalewicz, Clean Up the River Environment
Kylene Olson, Chippewa River Watershed Project
Patrick J. Moore, Java River Company
Loren & Lois Engelby, Hawk Creek Watershed Project
John G. White, Clara City Herald
Richard Halterman, Minnesota River School
Scott Sparlin, Coalition for a Clean Minnesota River
Kim Olson, New Ulm Area Sport Fisherman
Al Christenson, Tri-county Solid Waste
Donna L. More, River Restoration Action Team, 3M Corporation
Lori Nelson, Friends of the Minnesota Valley
Kay & Annette Fernholz, Earthrise Farm Foundation
Geoff Hathaway, Minnesota Trails Initiative
Bill Pauling, Twin Rivers Canoe Club
Audrey Arner, Farmer
Pat Cragoe, Individual
Dee Czech, Individual
Kevin Molloy, Individual
Diane Overbo, Individual
Richard Currie Smith, Individual
Richard Fish, Individual
Greg Roiger, Individual
Randy Krzmarzick, Farmer
Del Wehrspann, Cattle Buyer
Charlie Guggisberg, Citizen Land Owner
Lucas Youngsma, Individual
Jim Wolf, Private Citizen
Kathleen Wolf, Individual
Larry Gunderson, Individual
Ron Bolduan, Photographer
Chris Hughes, Individual
Lyle Winterfeldt, Individual
Chantill Kahler-Royer, Individual
Laurel Gamm, Putting Green Inc.
Linda Meschke, Rural Advantage
Jim Schafer, Renville Soil & Water District
Mark Schnobich, McLeod Soil & Water District
Shannon Fisher, Mankato State University Water Resources Center