Join celebrated Mississippi River historian, author, and storyteller Dr. John Anfinson on Tuesday, September 26th, from 6 - 7 pm CT, for The Long Journey of the Great River. John is a featured speaker on American Cruise Lines, and his spellbinding presentation includes stories of the people, land, water, and wildlife of one of the world's greatest rivers, the mighty Mississippi. Join this unique free event from anywhere; all are welcome to this special online
1 Mississippi World Rivers Day event. Click this link to register!
The Mississippi River Network* is sponsoring this exciting talk by John Anfinson, retired Superintendent of Mississippi River National River and Recreation Area, author of "The River we have Wrought: A History of the Upper Mississippi", and passionate river advocate. John is also a speaker on American Cruise Lines' voyages on the Mississippi.
Widely considered to be one of the world’s leading experts on the Mississippi River, Dr. John Anfinson was among the first to alert Minnesota of the dire effects of invasive carp coming up the river from Arkansas. With solid science and visions of silver carp erupting pell-mell in boat traffic, John’s work led to a coalition of non-profit organizations that played a critical role in closing the St. Anthony Falls Lock. Not only did this save Minnesota’s lake country from these invasive species, it forever changed the Twin Cities riverscape and opened the way for multiple revitalization projects along the Mississippi.
*The Mississippi River Network (MRN) is a coalition of 58 organizations dedicated to creating a healthier Mississippi River by working for the well-being of the people, land, water, and wildlife of America’s largest watershed.
The Network also advances its goal for a healthier Mississippi River by supporting 1 Mississippi with important River science and policy information. 1 Mississippi is a public outreach program of MRN and is a growing national movement of over 20,000 River Citizens —people dedicated to protecting the River by taking simple actions. As the guardians and caretakers of the River, from armchairs to wading boots, River Citizens are people the River can count on.
The MRN was founded in 2005 on the premise of four central tenets the People, Land, Water, and Wildlife Goals.
The LWV UMRR Board consists of five officer positions (Chair, Vice-Chair, Past Chair, Secretary, and Treasurer) and a representative and alternate from each of our member states. The reps and alternates are designated by their state LWV Boards. We also have a member of the Board who serves as Communication Chair. The officers can be filled by two people who serve, for example, as Co-Chairs. (More info on the Board at this link.)
This structure has served UMRR well since we were organized in 2015. Now, in our eighth year, we are re-examining our structure and are planning ways to expand the Board so we can tackle new challenges.
In the next six months, we are examining our bylaws and finding ways to expand our Board and get more people involved in our work. One way to do this is to restructure the state Reps by making the alternates full Board members and maybe expanding to three Reps per state. To that end, we are seeking members for our Bylaws Committee, working now to develop new draft bylaws for member consideration next spring. If you are interested in serving, email us at email@example.com .
We are also seeking members for our Action Committee. This group meets monthly and reviews opportunities for LWV UMRR to issue action alerts or sign on to letter for federal actions. We bring in voices from other like-minded non-partisan organizations in our territory, and are developing a strong alliance with the action arm of LWV Lake Michigan Region. If you are involved in advocacy work around climate change, water quality or water quantity in the Upper Mississippi Basin (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois and Missouri) through other groups, and want to bring that information to LWV, consider joining our Action Committee. This group also advises the Board on possible educational programs that would support LWV UMRR's work in water issues and climate change.
Would you like to work with communications? Our newly-formed Communications Committee is looking for members to help maintain our website, write blog posts and work on our social media. You could be the plucky 'cub reporter', snooping out and developing stories for our blog and or be the person who makes it all look professional on our easy-to-use Weebly website. We use MailChimp for our monthly newsletter - this is a free service that local Leagues can also use for eye-catching emails. If you join the Communications Committee, we will work on all of this together and you can gain some skills for your local League work.
And, sadly, we lost a Board member in July and now have an opening for an alternate from Minnesota. We will be advertising this opening through the LWV MN All-Member News in September.
Lonni's Celebration of Life will be held on Wednesday, August 30, 2023 at 5:00 p.m. at the Coon Rapids Civic Center, 11155 Robinson Drive, Coon Rapids, MN 55433. Here's a link to her full obituary. Following are memorials from League of Women Voters and Mediation Restoration Services.
Born and raised on a farm in Southwestern Minnesota, Lonni was an ardent supporter of soil health movement. In her role with LWV UMRR, she worked with Land Stewardship Project to sponsor seminars for absentee landowners. This is important because about half of farm land is rented, and the owners can have a big say in the farming practices that are used. (Read about it in this blog post.)These sessions came to a close when the world shut down in 2020.
In 2020, Lonni put her local connections to good use, organizing a series of monthly articles for the local newspaper. Here, leaders in the water community in the northern Twin Cities were invited to provide columns on water topics. These articles ran monthly for two years, April 2020 to May 2022 in the Anoka County Union, providing an opportunity for water agencies and non-profits to share information about their work and raising local awareness of League of Women Voters' work in water. (Here's a blog post introducing the series.)
Lonni had many illustrious careers before she began working with LWV UMRR in 2015, including a stint as Mayor of Coon Rapids, a suburban city on the Mississippi in the Twin Cities. Her ties to the community were strong and she advocated for climate solutions to be implemented in her city. This blog post describes work that she and others instigated to change city ordinances and urge the city toward developing a stronger environmental ethic. May of 2023, a presentation was given to LWV ABC on the success of their efforts. Lonni gave a short presentation on the Coon Rapids Regenerative Energy Taskforce. Guest speakers Kari Rehrauer (Coon RapidsCouncilmember) and Olivia Dorow Hovland (Coon Rapids Sustainability Planner) presented a program on the Coon Rapids Energy Action Plan recently approved by the city council. You can see the video of this meeting at this link.
Lonni's vibrant energy, keen intellect and dry wit were well known among League members, and we will miss her. We offer condolences to Lonni's family and friends. The work that Lonni fostered with LWV will continue. If you wish to make a memorial donation to remember Lonni and support the mission of LWV Upper Mississippi River Region that was so important to her, visit the LWV UMRR donation page at this link.
We will share a link to other obituary information here when it becomes available, including memorials to other causes as the family determines. A notice from Mediation and Restorative Services follows these pictures.
Memorial Notice from Mediation and Restorative Services:
It is with great sadness that we inform you of the passing of Lonni McCauley, founder of Mediation and Restorative Services. She passed away on August 3, 2023.
Lonni McCauley founded MARS in 1987 to meet a community need for alternative dispute resolution in Anoka County. Thousands (I think it would be in the thousands) of people in our community have accessed free conflict resolution services over the past 36 years, repairing harm and making our community more peaceful. We can truly say that we, and the many individuals who have used our services, would not be where we are today without Lonni’s passion and drive.
Our hearts go out to Lonni’s family during this difficult time.
The Farm Bill is taking shape. We will continue to report on it in this blog. Marker bills are circulating now and are are seeing the outline of the final bill. Here are some resources to help you understand things as they come along.
There was a listening session on the Farm Bill at Minnesota's Farm Fest on August 2. Here's a link to watch the video of this event:
There will be a second listening session happening on Wednesday, August 16 in La Crosse, Wisconsin, beginning at 1:00 PM CT at the La Crosse Center at 300 Harborview Plaza, La Crosse. Register at this link:
Information from Congress
Congressional Research Service: https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/IF/IF12047 and
Podcast from Brownstein law firm
For those who prefer to listen rather than read: https://www.bhfs.com/insights/podcasts/an-introduction-to-the-2023-farm-bill
Information from Farm Aid
Farm Bill Primer (history, politics, twelve titles, more): https://www.farmaid.org/issues/farm-policy/farm-bill-101/
Updates on Farm Bill progress: https://www.farmaid.org/issues/farm-policy/the-latest-updates-on-the-2023-farm-bill/
From PASA Sustainable Agriculture
What is a marker bill? https://pasafarming.org/farm-bill-101-whats-a-marker-bill/
Documents from the Mississippi River Network with background
Post by Gretchen Sabel, Communications Director
LWV UMRR was incorporated in 2015, after being affirmed by our membership at our first Annual Meeting on October 24 in Dubuque, and being affirmed by the LWV US Board on April 1, 2016. In the early days, we traveled across the region, getting to know our watersheds and member Leagues. Like everyone else, we turned to Zoom and were virtual for years, finding that this is an effective way to us to work in our far-flung watershed. In early June, 2023, the LWV UMRR Board met in La Crosse for our first in-person retreat since 2020.
Our current chair, Mary Ellen Miller (home League LWV Metro Des Moines, IA) noted that we've matured as an organization in these seven years. Some elements are working well, but others need some adjustment. Now we will be re-evaluating our structure, and seeking ways to bring more people into our Board and committees.
monthly newsletter. The Bylaws Committee will examine the structure of the Board and recommend changes to bring in more Board members in meaningful roles. The Action Committee is also seeking new members as we expand our work and advocacy. We will share more on these new committees in upcoming blog posts. The Nominations Committee is also seeking new members.
Take a close look at the picture above. Do you recognize anyone well-known to all of us Leaguer's? Yes, we had several special guests at our Board Retreat. One was LWV US President Deb Turner. We were honored to be able to ask her our questions about how an ILO like LWV UMRR works with LWV US. She observed that there is no book written that outlines how this relationship is supposed to go so we are writing it as we go. We committed to working together to develop strong ties and effective working relationships. LWV US Midwest Regional Organizer, Jessica Rohloff, also attended - she will be on hand in this role as we move ahead.
All in all, the retreat was a three-day event filled with camaraderie and exploration. It was amazing to be able to meet in person after years of Zooming, and we not only worked but got to know each other informally. Here are some pictures from the event!
The 2023 LWV Minnesota Convention took place in New Ulm on June 2-3. New Ulm is a thriving Minnesota city, located at the confluence of the Minnesota River and the Cottonwood River, probably best known as the home of the second-oldest continuously operating brewery in the US, Schell's Brewery. We met and celebrated the Dakota Native roots of the community, the natural setting along the river, and the German culture that overlays this area today.
Friday afternoon, Part 1 took place at the Riverside Environmental Learning Center along the Minnesota River in New Ulm. This historic building was a fitting setting - outdoors we welcomed visitors with a display on LWV UMRR, staffed by volunteers from LWV New Ulm.
Inside, visitors learned about the Minnesota River's animals and water quality, and were able to 'take action' and write to their members of Congress, urging a strong conservation article in the US Farm Bill now being considered. Packets of pollinator seeds were provided to underscore what's at stake in the Farm Bill.
Another attraction at this event was a book event for "For Love of a River: The Minnesota", where LWV lifetime member and state leader Geri Nelson distributed copies of the book to the visitors. Her husband Darby was an accomplished author, educator and legislator. This book was his last project before his death in January, 2022. Geri was on hand to chat with visitors about the book and the process of writing it.
Saturday, the displays were set up in the LWV MN Convention hall. Gretchen Sabel, LWV UMRR Communication Director, spoke about LWV UMRR and urged Leagues in Minnesota to join if they haven't already. Geri Nelson gave a presentation on the book, and then LWV New Ulm Vice-President Megan Benage gave a rousing call to action for people to understand and protect the river.
It was wonderful to meet LWV members from leagues affiliated with UMRR, and also potential new member Leagues. Many thanks to LWV MN for the opportunity to showcase LWV UMRR!
Thanks to all who attended the LWV UMRR Annual Meeting on Monday, May 22! We had a great discussion in the Business meeting, and then two exciting speakers who helped us to understand how we as local Leagues, joined together in an ILO like UMRR, can also be part of the work of democracy being done by LWV US. Here's the video of our speakers - a good resource for local Leagues to learn and share!
LWV's foundation is our local Leagues. We work locally to build and defend democracy, joined together through our State Leagues. Beyond local and state Leagues, we work together regionally and nationally through ILOs and LWV US. We need each other and can depend on each other. United, we stand stronger!
This year we focused on the ties that bind us, and how we can work together more effectively. Our first speaker was Jessica Rolhoff, Midwest Regional Organizer for LWV US. Jessica gave an update (and answered questions) about the LWV US transformation plan, introducing this new LWV US initiative to our members. She also introduced a new social media tool for use within LWV - League in Action. Watch the video to learn more!
We then turned to the LWV US Climate Interest Group. As citizens of the world we must protect our planet from the physical, economic and public health effects of climate change while also providing pathways to economic prosperity. To advance League action on this urgent issue, the LWV Climate Interest Group was formed to collaborate nationwide. The Climate Interest Group is a group of League members from across the United States working together to fight climate change. They've organized teams in important climate issue areas to provide materials for local and state Leagues to use in their education and advocacy.
Joy Guscott-Mueller is Chair of the Water Team for the Climate Interest Group. She's also the Chair of LWV Lake Michigan Region, the other regional, multi-state Inter-League Organization focused on a major water body. Joy spoke to us about how the work of the Climate Interest Group strengthens the work of ILOs and our member Leagues. The work that the Climate Interest Group is doing is wide ranging and exciting - we send delegates to the international climate summits and have working groups on a number of topics. Joy explains all of this in the video (starting at about 32 minutes); we also have blog posts here and here that look at the work of the LWV US Climate Interest Group.
Bio information on our speakers is available on the LWV UMRR Annual Meeting 2023 page, along with the documents that were adopted and approved in the business meeting.
The implications of this decision will vary by state, depending on how the state regulates ephemeral waters. (Ephemeral waters are waters that present in wet times but vanish in dry times. A permanent wetland can be isolated in dry times, but connected to a lake, river or stream in wet times.)
The author of this blog post checked State Departments of Agriculture in the five states now part of the LWV UMRR family. Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri and Minnesota had no mention of the Sackett decision as of May 29. Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig, applauded the decision as bringing needed certainty to farmers.
In states where state regulations do not prohibit removing isolated wetlands or preserving ephemeral watercourses, it's reasonable to think that there will be significant pressure to develop or farm in these areas. Even if something like this is allowed now, those who do the developing and farming will still face the reality that water 'seeks its own level', meaning that in large rainfall events or wet seasons these areas will again be inundated and the water will need to be dealt with. Where will this water go?
The Minnesota is degraded by excess nutrients and sediments that erode streambanks and bury aquatic habitat. The increased flow in the river due to the drainage of the extensive wetlands that covered the land before European settlement has caused significant damage to the river.
Th is has led to the Minnesota being not only a major source of nutrient pollution to the Mississippi, but also being "a river where aquatic life struggles."
Rivers and streams across the Midwest are similarly degraded. The Sackett decision can lead to more drainage and more development. This expansion will alter the hydrology, leading to two major concerning outcomes. One will be reducing the time that water has to sink into the soil and replenish groundwater; the other will be the direct discharge of more runoff to surface waters, making them hotter and dirtier. (Want to learn more about the role of groundwater in the hydrologic cycle? Read here.) Hotter and dirtier water will mean more struggles for aquatic life, and less 'fishable and swimmable' waters overall.
Now that the federal government has opened this door, it will be up to individuals, local governments and state leaders across the country to decide how protected our waters will be for the foreseeable future.
In this video, Gretchen Sabel, first Chair of UMRR, explains how this ILO is organized, how it came to be, and what it does. This talk was given for the Annual Meeting of an other Inter League Organization - the Council of Metropolitan Area Leagues in Minnesota - on May 20, 2023.
|LWV Upper Mississippi River Region||