St. Paul—The nonprofit Minnesota Environmental Fund (MEF) is granting a total of $176,000 to four of its member organizations to protect the clean water and natural resources of the Lake Superior watershed. These funds were awarded to MEF in a community service settlement agreement as recommended by the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Minnesota, and are intended to address and provide justice for environmental degradation in Lake Superior. The settlement was made with the owners of the ocean freighter M/V Cornelia, who pled guilty in a plea agreement to discharging oily bilge water in the Great Lakes.
“When the United States Attorney’s Office needed an experienced partner to distribute these funds to strong environmental nonprofits working within the Lake Superior watershed, the Minnesota Environmental Fund was ready with effective member groups and great projects,” said Cordelia Pierson, executive director of MEF.
Each of the four recipients, North American Water Office, Parks and Trails Council of Minnesota, The Nature Conservancy, and The Trust for Public Land, will be working over the next year on these land restoration projects. The projects include planting over 2,500 wild fruit plants in collaboration with local Native American tribes, acquiring and restoring high priority land for Minnesota State Parks, restoring the ecological balance of 250 acres of forests along key rivers, and protecting priority land in the Lake Superior watershed.
The Minnesota Environmental Fund engages workplaces and individuals to support leading nonprofit organizations that protect, conserve and restore Minnesota’s environment. In 2015, the Fund raised $511,000 at more than 100 workplaces across Minnesota, reaching more than 200,000 employees and supporting over 20 organizations. The City of Duluth, the University of Minnesota-Duluth, the State of Minnesota, and federal agencies are all workplaces in the Lake Superior area that offer giving to the Minnesota Environmental Fund. Employees can choose to give through payroll, giving with each payroll or a one-time gift.
About the Projects
Wild Fruit and Berry Project, Restoration: $44,000
North American Water Office (NAWO)
NAWO will be collaborating with two tribes on wild fruit and berry restoration projects, one in Carlton County with the Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College, and the other in Cook County with the Grand Portage Chippewa (Ojibwe). The Wild Fruit and Berry Project will plant over 2,500 shrubs and trees, from black raspberries to wild plums, significantly expanding the availability of these fresh, healthy foods to community members in Fond du Lac and Grand Portage. The tribes will collaborate with NAWO on recruiting and training people to plant and care for the wild fruits and berries, and will own and maintain the plantings and equipment.
North Shore State Park Protection Fund, Acquisition: $50,000
Parks & Trails Council of Minnesota
The North Shore State Park Protection Fund will help the Parks and Trails Council of Minnesota (P&TC) complete one or two of the highest priority acquisition and habitat restoration projects at state parks on Lake Superior. P&TC has protected extensive stretches of Lake Superior shoreline, resulting in nearly 4,700 acres being added to eight North Shore state parks. These critical natural ecosystems of the Lake Superior basin include wetlands, springs, trout streams and shorelines that are vital to our water.
Before protecting lands within our state parks, P&TC must restore habitat—often the single biggest obstacle to adding critical lands to our state parks on the North Shore. The North Shore State Park Protection Fund will support this critical restoration, leverage matching funds, and provide for the permanent protection of these natural areas, a gift for generations to come.
Sustaining Forests and Freshwater in the Lake Superior Watershed, Restoration: $32,000
The Nature Conservancy
This project will support the Nature Conservancy (TNC) treating 250 acres of riparian forests in sub-watersheds of Lake Superior to enhance forest diversity, resilience, and water quality protection values. Treatments will include restoring long-lived conifers such as white spruce, white cedar and white pine; planting red oak and yellow birch trees; protecting them from deer browse; and clearing brush so that trees will have enough light to get established. Pending approval of other grant applications, this grant from the Minnesota Environmental Fund could leverage up to $600,000 of matching and complementary funds, allowing TNC to treat 2,500 additional acres in the Lake Superior Watershed, and over the next ten years, a total of 30,000 acres of forest in the region. The proposed restoration project is part of TNC’s ongoing commitment to developing comprehensive climate change adaptation strategies that focus on conserving key forest functions in a changing climate.
Northwoods—Critical Shoreline, Protection: $50,000
The Trust for Public Land
Protecting forested land guards and improves the water quality of our rivers and lakes in the Lake Superior watershed; protects forests that store carbon; and provides exceptional recreational opportunities for people of the region. However, lands along these rivers and lakes are in high demand for residential and second home development. The Trust for Public Land’s Critical Shoreline Protection grant will help acquire and conserve at-risk shoreline, preventing it from being sold for private development.
By Shawn Perich