The Minnesota Environmental Partnership: Strengthening Environmental Efforts at the Head of the Lakes

The Minnesota Environmental Partnership: Strengthening Environmental Efforts at the Head of the Lakes

By: David Syring

When a group of leading Minnesota environmental activists began meeting regularly for coffee and conversation seven years ago, one question seemed to rise above the talk of individual issues and actions – how could activists work together to build the political clout of environmental groups?

The answer to that question became the Minnesota Environmental Partnership (MEP), incorporated in 1998 as a tax-exempt coalition of Minnesota environmental and conservation organizations. Today the coalition has more than 80 member groups, representing more than 500,000 citizens,working together to protect and preserve Minnesota’s natural environment. The Partnership provides a way for environmental organizations to collaborate in their efforts to assure Minnesota’s natural resources are well cared for.

For each of the past seven years the Partnership has created a legislative briefing book that outlines significant environmental issues. For the past two years the coalition has conducted an annual legislative campaign to “Protect Our Water.”We have focused on five priority issues for healthy waters: reducing contamination from four major pollutants—phosphorus, mercury, pesticides and animal/ human waste – and increasing our state’s investment in protecting natural resources.This year’s top legislative agenda is on making Minnesota the first state to remove phosphorus from automatic dishwashing detergent, cleaning up the state’s 170,000 failing septic systems, and maintaining state funding for environmental protection.

While much of the population and political power in the state lies outside the Great Lakes Basin, Lake Superior occupies a special place in the consciousness of our citizens, and the Minnesota Environmental Partnership recognizes that our coalition can and should play an active role in Great Lakes issues. Last fall, with funding from the C.S. Mott Foundation, the Partnership opened a half-time northeastern office in Duluth. One of the main agenda items for this office is to find ways for MEP to engage constructively with Great Lakes environmental efforts.

“The world’s largest concentration of fresh water is part of our heritage,” said Ron Kroese, executive director of MEP. “So it’s important for our partnership to add its collective voice and effort to Great Lakes issues. Minnesotans have a responsibility to help protect the waters we treasure and depend on.”

MEP’s northeastern organizer, David Syring, worked previously as administrative coordinator for one of MEP’s member groups focused on regional issues. With a Ph.D. in anthropology, Syring has long been interested in understanding and protecting the unique characteristics that help to define a place.

“Lake Superior, the Boundary Waters, the incredible inland lakes and North Shore rivers—so much of what defines northeastern Minnesota as a place revolves around the fact that we are at the head of the Great Lakes,” said Syring, who will serve as MEP’s representative on the advisory panel for the Great Lakes Aquatic Habitat Network and Fund.“I look forward to working on the advisory panel because I think GLAHNF really makes a difference for this place at a grassroots, community level.”

The Minnesota Environmental Partnership’s mission is to strengthen the effectiveness of the Minnesota environmental community in protecting and enhancing the state’s natural resources.We count among our members the state’s leading environmental and conservation organizations whose leaders understand the power and productivity that comes from joining forces and working together toward a common vision.

MEP strives to enhance the ability of participating organizations to fulfill their individual missions and better realize the expectations of a supportive public by providing a forum for: information sharing and education among participating organizations; coordination of efforts, strategies and legislative issues; coordination and sharing of media strategies; and discussion of a forward looking, affirmative agenda for Minnesota’s environment and natural resources. For more information about the Minnesota Environmental Partnership, and for a list of member groups, visit our web site at www.MEPartnership.org.

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Images courtesy of Steven Huyser-Honig,
West Grand Boulevard Collaborative, & Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve.