Friday, July 22, 2011

July 19th, 2011 Meeting Notes

Welcome and Introductions

The Tatanka Bluffs Corridor Inc. sponsored the July meeting at Gilfillan Estates between Redwood Falls and Morgan. A steak fry and social hour started the evening at 5:00 p.m. thanks to the Redwood Area Beef Producers, Revier Cattle Company, Jackpot Junction Event’s Coordinator, Redwood Area Chamber, Loran Kaardal, the Gilfillan Estate Board and the Tatanka Bluffs Corridor board.

Tonight’s meeting was facilitated by Cathi Fouchi and followed a different type of format than the usual Watershed Alliance gathering. A diverse selection of organizations and individuals made a 5 minute presentation focusing on their past, current and future efforts related to the Minnesota River Watershed activities (conservation, research/development, education, marketing/public relations, cultural history, agriculture, recreation, advocacy, and/or legislative).

Minnesota River Watershed Alliance

The mission of the Watershed Alliance is to serve as an organized network of citizens, public agencies and private groups dedicated to communicating the benefits of an ecologically healthy Minnesota River Watershed to others and are actively working towards its improvement and protection. In February of 2005, close to one hundred people including citizens, nonprofit organizations, recreational users, government agencies, political leaders among others gathered in Hutchinson to hold a comprehensive discussion on the Minnesota River and see what they can accomplish as a larger group.

According to Scott Kudelka, some of their successes include partnering with numerous organizations like the Minnesota Valley Trust, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, SWCDs and others to leverage funding to purchase permanent conservation easements in the basin. We worked with a large group to put on the Minnesota River Summit in 2007 for an extended conversion on the Minnesota River Basin, launched the MN River Paddler Program, provided ongoing support for the MN River Film Documentary and helped initiate the successful MN River Lake Pepin Friendship Tour, along with offering a number of communication initiatives including the MN River Weekly Update and River Talk newsletter.

For more information:

Tatanka Bluffs Corridor

Residents of Renville and Redwood counties formed a nonprofit organization with assistance from the Blandin foundation to build a vibrant, prosperous corridor along this portion of the Minnesota River and fill a gap between Granite Falls and New Ulm. In addition to creating economic stability for the next 20 to 30 years, the vision of Tatanka Bluffs is to protect the natural resources of the Minnesota River Corridor between the Upper Sioux Agency State park and Fort Ridgely State Park along with areas surrounding the counties.

Loran Kaardal offered the main thought behind the formation of this group had to do with the question of how can we, as a community, change this idea that these frontier counties aren’t great places to live and prosper. They want to connect people with their passion and open doors for recreational and economic opportunities. A number of committees that started out under the Tatanka Bluffs Corridor have become their own organizations like the Green Corridor Legacy Program and Minnesota Valley History Center.

For more information:

Green Corridor Legacy Program

This citizen-based collaboration is working in the mid section of the Minnesota River Watershed. The overall goal of the Green Corridor Legacy Program is to protect the unique natural resources found in this part of the Minnesota River Watershed and to create an outdoor recreational system (hunting, fishing, and trails) that would support an outdoor recreational economy.

Brad Cobb spoke about the main focus for the group is to purchase land for public use within the mid section of the Minnesota River Watershed. Five times the program has received funding from the Environment and Natural Resource Trust Fund and the Outdoor Heritage Legacy Fund totaling $8 million and will acquire nearly 1,500 acres of land, wetlands, and river shoreline for public hunting and fishing opportunities along with additions to a state park.

For more information:


The mission of this grassroots, citizen-based, nonprofit organization is to focus on public awareness in the Upper Minnesota River Watershed by taking action to restore and protect its water quality, biological integrity, and natural beauty for all generations. CURE works to achieve this by organizing and inspiring area youth and the general public through trips, tours and direct experiences of the Upper Minnesota River environment.

Josh Preston, board member, told the group that CURE has a two-fold approach. One is to get people outside and reconnect with the environment. The second has to do with the Minnesota River – Lake Pepin Friendship Tours, bringing together farmers, citizens, soil and water professionals and others for a constructive, honest dialogue to discuss what needs to be done to improve water quality and break down barriers between groups. They want to educate people about the environment.

For more information:

Minnesota River Valley National Scenic Byway Alliance

From the South Dakota border at Browns Valley down to Belle Plaine at the lower end of the basin, the Minnesota River National Scenic Byway Alliance promotes the diversity of attractions, communities and recreational opportunities found in the Minnesota River Basin. The Byway focuses on three themes: agricultural, natural history and beauty of the valley, and history and tradition of people who have lived here.

Brad Cobb reported how the Alliance is made up of engaged citizens and stakeholders with a special interest in funding the Byway. This group works to provide the public with tourism opportunities along the scenic highway byway and started to put up exhibits at significant historical and cultural locations.

For more information:

Minnesota River Board

Organized in 1995, the Minnesota River Board (MRB) is a joint powers board comprised of 27 counties within the basin. The mission of this organization is to provide leadership, build partnerships, and support existing and new efforts to improve and protect water quality in the Minnesota River Basin. Led by county commissioners, the MRB strives to seek ongoing input from stakeholders across the basin including citizens, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies.

Susie Carlin, program officer, provided a rundown of what has been happening with the MRB including hosting their annual meeting up in Glenwood yesterday and the May meeting in Olivia that featured a tour by Tom Kalahar of the Renville SWCD. The MRB has helped with numerous initiatives over the years and now working on Conservation Marketplace of Minnesota (CMM), adding additional value to the landscape for landowners to pay them for clean water and air, and recreational space. The idea is to put a value on wise land use decisions and reward them for these additional benefits. They were also a co-sponsor of the Friendship Tour, provide technical training for member county staff and offer small program grants and student scholarships.

For more information:

Minnesota Valley History Learning Center

The Tatanka Bluffs Corridor organization began to see a need for a history learning center that would collect, preserve, and share the rich cultural and natural history of the Minnesota River. This would be first history learning center in Minnesota. Loran Kaardal said the center will be based out of the underused and former Morton High School. A 15-acre gneiss rock outcrop will serve as an adjacent learning station. Partners in this endeavor include the University of Minnesota Bell Museum and Southwest Research and Outreach Center. Kaardal promised the group they will hear more about this project down the road and the first exhibits and events are being planned for next summer.

For more information:

Hawk Creek Watershed Project

Established in 1999, this watershed project focuses on implementing best management practices to correct and prevent land use challenges that negatively affect water quality and quantity. After conducting a three-year diagnostic study to identify water-related issues, Hawk Creek Watershed Project has been working with partners across the basin to improve and protect the watershed’s water resources.

Cory Netland, project coordinator, said 2010 turned out to be the biggest year for implementing of BMPs at more than $400,000 in funding. The project is going strong for BMPs, education and water quality monitoring. A total of 19 stream sites are being monitored along with MPCA doing intensive monitoring as part of their major watershed approach. Beaver Creek has seen a major reduction in sediment by 50% which is a result of CREP acres in the watershed consisting of mostly floodplain buffers. They have also been doing a fair amount of lake monitoring to see what is impaired and recently received notice for a 319 grant award for conservation work in the Middle Minnesota River Watershed.

For more information:

Minnesota River Film Documentary

The film documentary, “River Revival: Working Together to Save the Minnesota River” is the result of years of dedicated effort and hard work by citizens, organizations, agencies and many more to protect and restore our namesake river – the Minnesota. John Hickman and Jon Carlson of EPIC Media set out two years ago to tell the story of how people have come together to make sure future generations will be able to enjoy the Minnesota River and what it has to offer.

John Hickman offered some background on how this documentary got made, including how it originally didn’t get the support of the Watershed Alliance. Once he secured funding for the documentary, the Watershed Alliance did become supportive. Funding for the project was real diverse which speaks to the heart of this documentary with monies from the private sector, government agencies and nonprofit organizations. According to John, this documentary is all about people working together to clean up the river.

KARE 11 TV aired the documentary on prime time at 6 p.m. on June 12th (Sunday). The Watershed Alliance helped sponsor six viewing parties up and down the Minnesota River. John continues to do showings of the documentary including one scheduled for September 8th at the St. Peter Treaty Center. Minnesota Bound with Ron Schara showed four clips in March and April showing his support for the documentary. Jon and John will be producing a clip on Henderson Hummingbird event for Minnesota Bound in August.

For more information:

Renville Soil and Water Conservation District

Formed in 1955, the mission of the Renville SWCD is to insure proper management of the county’s soil and water resources. The District has enrolled the largest number of conservation easement acres in both the Reinvest in Minnesota Program (RIM) and the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP). Renville SWCD works with a diverse selection of partners including local government units, state and federal agencies along with nonprofit groups like Pheasants Forever to help put conservation practices on the ground.

Jason Beckler, Farm Bill Technician, gave an overview on what Renville County has lost for its natural resources including most of its wetlands. As a result, Renville SWCD is focused on preserving what little is left and creating additional habitat. One of their more successful conservation programs is the Granite Rock Outcrop Project initiated by Tom Kalahar to protect these unique rock outcropping and associated wetlands. Funding was received three times from LCCMR with over 1,500 acres put into permanent easements so far.

The RIM program from BWSR has also been successful along the CRP Riparian Permanent Easement Program that puts in at least a 50-foot buffer on ditches. Jason said landowners seem to like this program and they feel it is a win-win situation because it protects the ditches and offers water quality improvement. Renville SWCD wants to put a 50-foot buffer all the ditches in the county. Tom and Jason are also working on an idea for a new program to make a landscape change by planting of grass for raising beef cattle. A presentation in front of the State Technical Advisory Committee found a lot of support from state agencies and agricultural groups. They have also found success in the Working Lands Initiative Program, with over 400 acres enrolled into CRP.

For more information:

Sportsman for Change

This 501c(4) is a grassroots organization with their mission to defend and champion Minnesota’s sportsmen’s rights, hunting, fishing, trapping and habitat issues with Minnesota’s legislators.

Garry Leaf spoke about how the group was one of the main advocates for the passage of the 2008 Legacy Amendment. The group also sponsored the Minnesota Hunting and Fishing Heritage Amendment adopted on November 3, 1998 and calls for the preservation of hunting and fishing. They were also the main force behind the creation of the Lessard-Sams Council that provides a citizen voice in how the amendment funds are spent. The biggest concern for this group is the possible diversion of funds to other unrelated areas.

For more information:

Regional River History Center of New Ulm

The Regional River History and Information Center houses two distinct components. One section of the building contains natural and historical artifacts as well as river related subject displays along with archival pictures and cultural interactions with the region’s several rivers. A unique collection of items can be found at the center revealing numerous stories of how the rivers have made significant influence on the culture in our area of Minnesota.

Ron Bolduan’s goal in life is to teach people about the wonderful world of natural environment. Scott Sparlin got the City of New Ulm to donate the Riverside Park School building to be used as the office for CCMR. The two of them worked together to convert the building’s second room into an exhibit area for all of Ron’s artifacts, photos and other related MN River items to be put on display. Ron is proud of how people can touch these items. The building also serves as the headquarters of the Minnesota River Ranger program, which is nearest and dearest to his heart. Ron likes nothing better than opening up the building to give people a tour.

For more information:

Minnesota River Rangers

The mission of the Minnesota River Ranger Program is to trigger participant’s interest, passion and appreciation for the natural environment they live in. Hands-on activities increases awareness and generate long term value systems. River Ranger focuses primarily, but not exclusively upon youth participation. All young people interested in making a difference are encouraged to join.

Chad Wengert told the audience this is youth based program that gets children and adults out in the natural environment and enjoy what it has to offer. There are three requirements to become an official Minnesota River Ranger: go on a field trip, participate in projects at the New Ulm Library and help out with a river cleanup. You will receive a button and t-shirt. The program started last August with a hike on the Cottonwood River and they have expanded with trips to the Gneiss SNA, Minneopa State Park and Jeffers Petroglyphs along with doing a leaf cleanup in New Ulm. The purpose of the program is to teach kids about the environment and history of the area. This is a free program that relies on all volunteers and donations. Check out their Facebook page and “River Ranger Rachel,” the program’s mascot who gets into all of these predicaments.

For more information:

New Ulm Area Sport Fishermen

Conservation efforts, river clean-ups, and providing fishing opportunities are just a number of focuses by the New Ulm Sport Fishermen club. Formed in 1986, this nonprofit group has assisted in the development and improvement of Clear Lake in Brown County, putting on children-related activities and were founders of the Sportsmen’s Coalition for a Clean Minnesota River (today it is called CCMR – Coalition for a Clean Minnesota River). New Ulm Area Sport Fishermen meet once a month and put on fishing contests and trips.

Tony Miller told the group how he has lived within two blocks of the Minnesota River for most of his life. The New Ulm Area Sport Fishermen promote fishing and fishing events, along with sponsoring projects that increase fish habitat. They work with a variety of groups including 3M River RATS, CCMR, Minnesota River Rangers, etc. In its 25th year, the club has over 200 members.

One of biggest projects the club has been involved with was helping clean up a 68-acres auto salvage yard (tires, metal, fluids, etc.) along the Minnesota River in Belle Plaine that also involved the 3M River RATS and CCMR. The club sponsors river clean-ups each year and hosts an annual Kids Fishing Contest at Riverside Park with over 140 plus young kids coming out and has been changed to August 17th due to high water levels on the Minnesota River.

For more information:

Lower Sioux Community / Can sa yapi

Sandee Geshick expressed to the group how their people where the first to inhabit this land well before Minnesota became a state. They have a deep connection with the land and everything that people enjoy related to the natural environment. It is their sacred mission to do everything in their power to protect the land. This is nothing new they have always worked to protect Mother Earth. Honor this land, respect it, give thanks to what we find in nature and always leave something for the future. When they take something, they give a special offering and perform a ceremony as a way to honor Mother Earth and what she provides. To always remember to say a prayer to the creator.

Sandee extends an invitation to all groups to email or call her if there is anything I or my people can do to help as our mission in life is to protect Unci Maka (Mother Earth). To reiterate, our people have been protecting her for centuries and we won't stop. Forward any questions to me at this address –

For more information:

Minnesota Department of Agriculture

For over a hundred years the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) in one form or another has been assisting farmers in the production of crops and livestock. The mission of MDA is to enhance Minnesota’s quality of life by ensuring the integrity of our food supply, the health of our environment, and the strength of our agricultural economy. MDA concentrates on three general areas of responsibilities – Protecting our food supply; Protecting our natural resources; and Cultivating our agricultural economy.

Brian Williams works for the Pesticide and Fertilizer Management division of MDA out of the Le Sueur area and drives across the Minnesota River at least once a day. MDA has received $8.8 million from the Clean Water Legacy funds to be used for projects ranging from SWAT modeling, sediment and fecal bacteria fingerprinting, targeting BMPs through the use of LiDAR among others. One of the newer programs is the Discovery Farms funded by the Minnesota Agricultural Water Resources Coalition that takes a look at working farms and water quality issues. MDA oversees the monitoring effort.

MDA also has a number of water quality demonstration sites including Highway 90 south of Mankato that has operated for five years with a corn-soybean rotation. This is an offshoot of the Red Top Site in Seven Mile Creek and looking at the effect of BMPs, and University Of Minnesota nutrient management recommendations has on water quality and quantity. They also put out a Fall Nutrient Management newsletter for farmers and co-ops along with hosting an annual Nutrient Conference to be held on February 18, 2012 at Jackpot Junction. Brian said this conference is a good way for farmers and non-farmers to get information on nutrient management issues.

For more information:

Conservation Sportsman News / MOHA Board

Conservation Sportsman News is nonpartisan and seeks to inform the public about policies, programs and practices that affect Minnesota’s great outdoors. The Minnesota Outdoor Heritage Alliance (MOHA) is the largest coalition of hunting, fishing, trapping and conservation organizations in the state. The mission of MOHA is to protect and guarantee the right to pursue the time-honored traditions of hunting and fishing, and related activities, for every Minnesota citizen, in perpetuity, through legislative action, public awareness, and education.

Kevin Auslund told the group that major news media ignores conservation issues which is why the Conservation Sportsman News plays an important role in filling this void. One of the major programs the MOHA Board has taken a major interest in is the new DNR Walk-in Access Program. This three-year pilot program has a goal of opening 50,000 acres of private land to public hunting funded by the USDA and DNR. Both North and South Dakota have been successful with similar programs. A total of 3,000 acres have been signed up already with the first year goal of 10,000. The local SWCD offices handle the sign-up.

For more information: and

University of Minnesota Extension – Water Resources

The goal of the state’s Extension Service is to take the University of Minnesota’s research and education to the people of Minnesota. The Extension Service focuses on the areas of environment, food and agriculture, communities, families and youth.

Karen Terry gave a run-down on the Water Resources group that works together on issues as a team related to water including watersheds, shoreline education, stormwater education and onsite sewage treatment. This group will sit down with organizations and communities to work on issues that deal with water. Programs managed by the group include NEMO and “Linking Land Use to Water Quality.” They will also assistant with using native plants on projects like rain gardens to help improve water quality.

For more information:

Blandin Foundation

The Blandin Foundation is an independent, private foundation based in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. They are guided by a trust established through the will of founder Charles K. Blandin, who passed away in 1958 following distinguished careers in education, publishing and paper-making. This foundation works in three primary areas: grant-making, community leadership development and public policy initiatives.

In March, Tatanka Bluffs received a two-year 100,000 grant from the Blandin Foundation to develop an integrated trail plan for this area of the Minnesota River Valley. They will focus on a couple of primary outcomes including putting youth to work through the Minnesota Conservation Corps. One project will involve rehabilitating a couple of Renville County Parks starting at Skalbekken near the Upper Sioux Agency State Park. This funding will also help with the trail plan to connect Upper Sioux Agency with Fort Ridgely.

For more information:, and

Next Meeting:

• Date is October 18th (Tuesday) with location to be discussed by the coordinating team.


• Brad Cobb,
• Loran Kaardal,
• Al Odenthal,
• John Hickman,
• Chantill Kahler-Royer,
• Gary Lentz,
• Ron Bolduan,
• Chad Wengert,
• Lori Wengert,
• Susie Carlin,
• Tom Kalahar,
• Cory Netland,
• Joshua Preston,
• Matt Baumgartner,
• Garry Leaf,
• Sandree Geshick,
• Brian Williams,
• Karen Terry,
• Ed Stone,
• Tony Miller,
• Barb Becker,
• Al Kokesch,
• Kevin Auslund,
• Joel Harmoning,
• Mary Mueller,
• Jason Beckler,
• Cathi Fouchi,
• Scott Kudelka