UMRR Board member Kay Slama (LWV Willmar, MN) attended the Line 3 Treaty People Gathering at the headwaters of the Mississippi in northern MN June 5-8 and Zoomed into our Board meeting from there. Today, on Wed June 9, she says: The weather was extremely hot, but most participants appeared to be in their 20’s and 30’s and dealing well with the heat. Sunday was an inspiration and training day at a White Earth Reservation site. On Monday, participants split into their various action groups and headed out to their action sites. Unfortunately, some national celebrities like Jane Fonda got much of the coverage, rather than the indigenous people leading the protest. So many people were arrested that I found 21 listed at our Kandiyohi County jail 2 hours south, and I will probably be involved in trying to return them to their cars up north.
The protests are continuing today, and will go on. We will follow this the UMRR Blog as we move forward. Line 3 protestors are turning up the heat as they work to stop Line 3. More than 600 people have now been arrested, including Indigenous leader Winona La Duke. Early in the protests, things took an ugly turn when a US Customs and Border Patrol helicopter sprayed protestors with dust and debris.
Minnesota is in the midst of a drought and construction of the pipeline requires dewatering and other water appropriations. Some of the DNR's appropriation permits have been temporarily suspended due to the drought, holding up construction to some extent. The stakes are high and the protesters are determined.
“Dubuque is a viable, livable, and equitable community. We embrace economic prosperity, environmental integrity, and social/cultural vibrancy to create a sustainable legacy for generations to come.”
On August 2 at 1pm, LWV UMRR will host Gina Bell, Sustainable Communities Coordinator for the City of Dubuque in an interactive Zoom session. Gina will review the activities in Dubuque, Iowa that has made this small city a nationally recognized leader in community engagement and resilience. Join us for a lively discussion with this inspiring local leader!
Topic: LWV UMRR - Sustainable Dubuque Aug 2, 2021
Time: Aug 2, 2021 01:00 PM Central Time (US and Canada)
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How Sustainable Dubuque became a "thing"... and why LWV UMRR is focusing on this in August
LWV UMRR is all about the environment, and using LWV's superpowers of education and advocacy to protect and enhance water quality, combat climate change and make our lives and world more sustainable. Our August educational program celebrates the work that Dubuque has done to bring the voices of their citizens into the work of the city as they become "Sustainable Dubuque". The city's website describes this process below:
The BeginningAfter serving 10 years on the City Council, Roy D. Buol ran for the office of Mayor in 2005. His platform was based upon “engaging citizens as partners,” and what he heard from thousands of citizens was a consistent theme surrounding water quality, recycling, green space, public transit, cultural vitality, accessibility and downtown revitalization. During the 2006 City Council goal-setting process, Mayor Buol proposed and received full support from his council colleagues to focus on sustainability as a City top priority, stating “cities that get out in front on sustainability will have competitive economic advantages in the future.” What soon became known as Sustainable Dubuque is a City Council adopted, community-created, and citizen-led initiative whose story officially begins in 2006. A City Council priority each year since, we are continually working to expand awareness, create partnerships, and encourage initiatives involving all sectors of our community. Dubuque became an early leader on the sustainability front.
Citizen Engagement from the StartIgniting our early efforts was the selection by the American Institute of Architects as one of six cities in the nation to receive a grant for professional analysis and recommendations on creating a sustainable path to the future. The City Council moved immediately to create a city-wide citizen task force, supported by City Staff, to develop a comprehensive definition of what sustainability meant to our community. Aptly named the “Sustainable Dubuque Task Force,” the representation included individuals who brought diverse backgrounds and interests to the process, including local government, schools, utility companies, religious organizations, neighborhood associations, youth organizations, non-profits, environmental organizations and business stakeholders. The group met over the next two years, collecting community-wide input to develop a vision. The process also included presentations to community organizations and businesses to discuss targeted visions and ideas. Additionally, nearly 900 community surveys were completed. The results of these efforts, along with other data collected by the task force, were used to develop the Sustainable Dubuque vision and model which focuses on a balanced approach to life quality and includes “economic prosperity, environmental integrity, and social/cultural vibrancy.” The collective desire of our citizens to create value and a legacy of life quality through sustainable practices and programs was defined.
An Organized & Collaborative Approach By and For Citizens
“Dubuque is a viable, livable, and equitable community. We embrace economic prosperity, environmental integrity, and social/cultural vibrancy to create a sustainable legacy for generations to come.” In order to implement that vision, the task force defined 12 key principles to guide the community’s path to a more sustainable future. These include: Regional Economy, Smart Energy Use, Resource Management, Community Design, Green Buildings, Healthy Local Foods, Community Knowledge, Reasonable Mobility, Healthy Air, Clean Water, and Native Plants & Animals.
Community Engagement is Occurring Across a Broad Spectrum
When the citizen task force brought its final recommendation for Sustainable Dubuque to the City Council in 2008, it came with the support of the private, non-profit, and public sectors, as well as residents because of the grassroots process that had been implemented at the outset. The Sustainable Dubuque framework has become the lens through which city operations are developed and analyzed. Likewise, there are numerous community initiatives active such as Project HOPE, Green Vision Schools, and the Petal Project to name a few, along with businesses that are finding ways to save money and improve their environment and their community by implementing the principles that define Sustainable Dubuque.
Sustainable Dubuque is the City’s Brand
Dubuque has established itself as a regional and national leader in its ability to collaboratively partner to achieve community goals. What Dubuque is achieving collectively today through its Sustainable Dubuque model, is the direct result of the knowledge and understanding that sustainability is a balanced approach to long-term life quality. It is a rare approach to life quality where no one in the community is excluded…everyone who wants to do so, can participate and contribute. That is what is unique in Dubuque’s ability to continue to innovate and transform. Most recently, the City of Dubuque and its partners are working to create a replicable model of sustainability for cities under 200,000, where over 40 percent of the US population lives. Sustainable Dubuque is who and what we are; it is our brand; it is our recognizable logo; and it is our future.
Sustainable Dubuque info on city website: https://www.cityofdubuque.org/1257/About-Sustainable-Dubuque
Sustainable Dubuque website: https://www.sustainabledubuque.org/#
The Mississippi River is an enduring and defining feature of North America – and a vital source of jobs, recreation, and drinking water. Congresswoman Betty McCollum has a new initiative - the Mississippi River Restoration and Resilience Initiative Act, HR 4202!
Now is the time that we need to reach out to our members of Congress to urge their support for this bill. Follow this link for an action message from the Mississippi River Network that includes a message to share when you make the call.
The MRRRI bill directs EPA to develop a strategy with federal, tribal, state and local entities to improve water quality, resilience to natural disasters, native ecosystems, and more – restoring the vitality of The Great River for generations to come. The LWV UMRR Annual Meeting featured remarks by Representative McCollum and an excellent talk by Kelly McGinnis, Executive Director of the Mississippi River Network. LWV UMRR's Communications Director Gretchen Sabel also shares information on a similar program - the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative - and how it has helped to clean up long-time pollution problems in the Great Lakes. You can see the video from this presentation on the LWV UMRR YouTube channel here.
Dr. Chris Jones is a Research Engineer and Adjunct Associate Professor, University of Iowa, IIHR. In addition to all his professorial duties, Dr. Jones posts a blog on water quality conundrums in Iowa, based on his research. His blog, while witty and fact-based, is blunt about Iowa's water quality problems and the role of agriculture in these problems. Here's how Dr. Jones describes his blog:
"Water quality is a difficult issue for Iowans. How do we balance the needs of an agricultural economy with the desire for clean water and a healthy environment? Better information is without a doubt the best place to start. I plan to explore the scientific nuances of Iowa's quest for better water quality, with a focus on how we can work together to make progress."
Case in point: Dr. Jones' June 9 2021 post, Ifyoucantbeatemjoinemitis. Here, Jones starts off with a quote from Pope John Paul II, “The dramatic threat of ecological breakdown is teaching us the extent to which greed and selfishness, both individual and collective, are contrary to the order of creation.”
Jones then takes a pointed look at the political causes of the elevated nitrate levels that are plaguing the water supply of the largest city in Iowa Des Moines. He also lays outs at what will be needed to fix these problems... and it's not the small fixes that are being funded in the watershed and receiving a lot of attention in the press. It will take major, sustained change.
Another of Jones' posts, Environmental Injustice, identifies the social injustice that results from the nitrate pollution in the Des Moines River. As we've documented in this blog previously (check out these three UMRR blog posts*) the Des Moines Waterworks sued three upstream counties on the Raccoon River to recoup the cost of treating nitrate pollution resulting from livestock and row crop agriculture. The suit was dismissed, leaving the Des Moines Waterworks to foot the bill for advanced treatment needed to remove nitrates to safe levels or find cleaner sources of water, Other downstream cities did not have the resources to do this. Click here to read a previous LWV UMRR Blog Post on Chris Jones' blog.
*Three UMRR blog posts on Des Moines lawsuit:
How two savvy conservationists empower working farm landowners to put their inner land ethic to work in consort with their tenants
Next Tuesday, June 1 the Izaak Walton League's web program, Heartland Heroines, will focus on work with non-operating farm land owners with guest presenters Robin Moore (Land Stewardship Project) and Denise O’Brien (farmer and co-founder, Women, Food, and Agriculture Network). Please register in advance for the link to join.
“Heartland Heroines” Tuesday, June 1st @ 7 pm Central Time This presentation is in the “Thinking Like a Watershed” series of monthly presentations by the Izaak Walton League's Upper Mississippi River Initiative.
How two savvy conservationists empower working farm landowners to put their inner land ethic to work in consort with their tenants: Robin Moore leads LSP’s statewide efforts to help non-farming landowners define their goals and then equitably insert conservation practices into their rental agreements. Denise O'Brien is one of the founding mothers of WFAN and continues her contributions with her family’s organic farm at Rolling Acres Farm in Atlantic, Iowa.
There will be time for facilitated questions and discussion. Organizers seek to offer examples of real watershed issues in the context of working solutions, complete with bumps in the road and inspiration for improving our communities.
The monthly presentations take place the first Tuesday of every month at 7 p.m. They are organized by Christine Curry of the Izaak Walton League/ Upper Mississippi River Initiative, and co-hosted by Zach Moss of Save Our Streams, Panora Conservation Chapter member Chris Henning, and Des Moines Chapter Communication Director Bud Hartley.
What is sustainability? What is our responsibility to our natural waters? How is restoration different from reclamation? These are questions that are extensively explored in the book "Braiding Sweetgrass" by Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer. For a limited time, until June 11, a talk by Dr. Kimmerer will be available for viewing on the Wege Foundation's webpage: https://wegespeakerseries.com/ it's a great introduction to Dr. Kimmerer's book, which is highly-recommended environmental reading. In this talk, she is speaking generally about her work but also specifically about work now ongoing to restore the Grand River in Michigan. Read more here.
Dr. Kimmerer is a mother, an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, and a professor of botany at the State University of New York. She has spoken extensively on the relationship between people and the land - read more about Dr. Kimmerer and her work here: https://www.esf.edu/faculty/kimmerer/
How will Line 3 Impact Minnesota?
Kay Slama, Willmar Area Climate Action Group
Line 3, the Canadian company Enbridge’s new oil pipeline, will carry tar sands oil across Minnesota to reach refineries in other states. It has been promoted as a big energy source and job creator for Minnesota. However, those claims are disputable, and the pipeline will negatively impact Minnesotans in a number of ways.
Will Line 3 give Minnesotans more energy? No, it runs across the state to transport oil elsewhere. Will it employ Minnesotans? Only about 1,500 workers will be hired locally for a few months of construction; then those jobs will disappear. Up to 3000 additional temporary jobs will bring in workers who create “man camps” that have been shown to increase drug use, sex trafficking, and violence. Clean energy already employs many more people than fossil fuels do, and Minnesota can become a leader in clean energy production. Here's a link to a May 29 article on the HealingMN blog with more information on jobs impacts in Minnesota.
The modest gains in taxes and temporary jobs are substantially offset by the environmental harm of the pipeline. More than 1,650 individual leaks have occurred in the U.S. since 2010, spilling more than 11.5 million gallons of oil, and Enbridge has one of the worst safety records of major pipeline companies.
Spills hurt local economies, public health, and soils and waters. Tar sands oil, with all the added chemicals necessary to make it flow, creates spills that are even worse than other pipeline spills. The oil sinks instead of floating, so scraping to collect it not only leaves much of the spilled material in place, but also kills vegetation, destroys riverbeds and lake bottoms, and decimates the fish and birds that use the water. Line 3 will cross more than 200 bodies of water, including the Mississippi and Great Lakes watersheds. Northern Minnesota depends on its waters for drinking, crops, and its $12.5 billion tourism economy.
The waters endangered by Line 3 include tribal wild rice waters, one of the few remaining rights left to the Ojibwe after treaties took nearly all their land. Wild rice is important to their food and economy, and it is easily killed by pollution of its water. Native fisheries are also threatened, as well as their historic and cultural sites.
Minnesotans will feel the negative effects of pollution, no matter where the oil is burned. Tar sands oil is among the worst fossil fuels on the planet, in terms of the amount of energy it produces compared to the amount of carbon dioxide it emits into our atmosphere. Greater amounts of carbon in our atmosphere are causing increasingly disastrous flooding, droughts, storms, temperature extremes, wildfires, glacier melt, and ocean rise. Climate change is contributing to species extinction and epidemics. MN Dept. of Commerce Commissioner Bill Grant testified that Line 3 would result in a 30-year cost to society of $287 billion, and that is without including effects of spills.
Line 3 will double the oil carried by the old pipeline, carrying the equivalent of 50 coal plants worth of polluting fuel. This will outbalance the efforts Minnesotans are making to become a clean-energy state. Minnesota power companies are rapidly switching to renewable sources of power, which are becoming less expensive than fossil fuels. They are learning to build battery storage that will get us through storms. The need for fossil fuels—especially ones that pollute as much as tar sands oil—is dropping rapidly, but the infrastructure and impact of this pipeline will last for many decades.
A number of action groups (Stop Line 3, Honor the Earth, Sierra Club, MN350, and MN Interfaith Power and Light, among others) are actively protesting to stop the construction that has begun on Line 3. They are pressuring Federal regulators, as well as the banks that are financing Enbridge, to oppose Line 3 construction. Their efforts are evidence that many Minnesotans do not want to accept the substantial amounts of pollution (both guaranteed air pollution and the risk of spills) for what they see as little benefit from the new Line 3 pipeline. They want to lower carbon’s climate change burden on the next generations, not increase it. They believe that the pipeline threatens our air, our water, and indigenous rights, and we should instead build reliable, sustainable sources of energy.
The Willmar Area Climate Action Group seeks to take immediate local action to address the urgent issue of climate change and empower our community to support broad-scale solutions. To join, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fishers and Farmers' outreach work is helping people connect in their local watersheds around the water they share. F&F programs Online and On-Air are must-see's - click the picture below and take a look at their resources.
You can learn about upcoming radio programs (like the May 15 broadcast of Neighbor to Neighbor with Pam Jahnke, which will focus on the Cedar River and Black Hawk Creek watersheds) and live conversations (like Boots on the Ground, an upcoming interactive conversation on May 20 focused on the Polk County, Iowa, Soil and Water Conservation District), as well as find recordings of past sessions that take you all around the Upper Mississippi.
Fishers and Farmers' website has many excellent resources - take a look today! Thanks to F&F for their work to bring people together and improve soil health and water quality in the Upper Mississippi Basin!
LWV UMRR Annual Meeting - The Mississippi River Restoration and Resilience Initiative
The Mississippi River is an enduring and defining feature of North America – and a vital source of jobs, recreation, and drinking water. Congresswoman Betty McCollum has included a new initiative - the Mississippi River Restoration and Resilience Initiative.
The MRRRI provision in Rep. McCollum's FY 21 Interior bill directs EPA to develop a strategy with federal, tribal, state and local entities to improve water quality, resilience to natural disasters, native ecosystems, and more – restoring the vitality of The Great River for generations to come. The LWV UMRR Annual Meeting will feature remarks by Representative McCollum and lots of information on how nonprofits like LWV can help to get this initiative passed and implemented. We will also share information on a similar program - the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative - and how it has helped to clean up long-time pollution problems.
The video from this meeting is on the "Annual Meeting- May 22, 2021" page. The session will be recorded and the link shared on this blog post after the meeting.
Human activities have fundamentally altered our landscape, and the outcome has been degradation of the earth's natural processes and cycles. Conservation practices are used to restore the natural hydrology and ecosystems in a patchwork of promise across the landscape. Can these conservation practices also help to capture carbon in the atmosphere, reducing greenhouse gases and helping to combat climate change?
The answer is all too familiar - it depends. Practices like turning marginal cropland into restored wetlands does increase the permanent land cover and can encourage the growth of woody plants, but wetlands also emit methane, a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. This 2019 report by the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources finds "... Drainage of wetlands and conversion to cropland can release significant amounts of long-stored carbon through organic matter decomposition. However, wetlands also emit methane, making it difficult to assess their role relative to GHG emissions. Methane emissions are highest in wetlands that are permanently or frequently inundated, while less frequently inundated wetland types such as wet meadows appear to sequester more GHGs (green house gases) than they emit. "
Similarly, the role of other conservation measures - for example cover crops - has to be carefully considered before values for carbon capture are assigned. This UMRR blog post from December, 2020, outlines a growing experiment in development of a carbon market in Minnesota. Now, the budget proposed by Minnesota Governor Tim Walz for the Board of Water and Soil Resources includes funding for expansion of carbon markets in Minnesota - see page 46 here.
Let's be clear here. Conservation practices are a good thing. LWV UMRR strongly agrees that cover crops and reduced tillage are vital climate adaptation and resilience measures, providing undeniable benefits to soil health and farm resilience. Improved soil health, keeping water on the land, and restoring habitat will have benefits broadly, including making our landscapes more resilient to the added stresses of our changing climate. Our concern is that cover crops and no-till may play a minimal role in sequestering carbon. LWV UMRR is joining with other environmental organizations in Minnesota in requesting that more consideration be given to scientific data on carbon capture before the state more strongly commits to including cover crops and no-till as eligible practices in a carbon market.
Watch the LWV UMRR Blog for continued reporting on this issue.
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