Dear friends of the river,
What a year to summarize! 2020 used to refer to good vision, but it has now come to mean pandemic. For so many, the year has been one of loss, division and injustice. And yet, as we reflect on the year from FMR’s perspective, we marvel at the positive impact that you — members, volunteers and advocates — have had on water quality, healthy habitat and engaged and equitable communities. Despite the year's pain, we can offer impactful stories of service, generosity and resilience.
The river is the life-affirming strength of our region. Thank you for working with us to heal and nurture our communities, land and waters. Let's continue this essential collaboration.
With genuine gratitude,
Ronnie Brooks, Chair of FMR's Board of Directors
2020 IN REVIEW
You convinced the city to reduce light pollution along the Mississippi River flyway
You won funding for safe drinking water and cleaner lakes and rivers
North Minneapolis murals raised awareness about the risk of community displacement
CULTIVATINGCLIMATE-RESILIENT RIVERFRONT FORESTS
You planted tree species chosen to preserve our canopy through climate change
Our updated habitat restoration plan centers Dakota plants and practices
You advanced the People of Color and Indigenous Caucus' police and justice reforms
Youth impacted their communities through our second Environmental Stewardship Institute
You made possible a major new network dedicated to the success of clean-water crops
CELEBRATINGEARTH DAY APART
You volunteered more than 200 hours to keep trash out of our river
SHAPING CURRICULUM FOR VIRTUAL CLASSROOMS
As schools locked down, we stepped up to adapt our lessons for online learning
You packed the public meeting on this toxic riverfront site, ensuring the community’s seat at the table
You contributed to U of M wild canine research that will help us safely share our urban river habitat
OUR VISION & VALUES
Within local river communities, FMR supports grassroots advocacy and assists decision-makers to ensure that the essential values of public access, scenic views, equity and environmental quality are respected during planning and development processes.
FMR connects youth and adults from diverse communities throughout the metro to the river through 100-plus habitat restoration and education events annually, helping thousands of volunteers and students protect local waters and wildlife.
Water quality continues to be one of the most pressing concerns for the Mississippi River. FMR activates people and builds partnerships and coalitions to influence public policies that impact the health of drinking water, the river and more.
TRACKING FOX AND COYOTE
IN THE TWIN CITIES
More and more foxes and coyotes have made the metro area home. There's a range of feelings about these neighbors, and habitat managers want to understand more about their behavior. FMR, an outreach partner of the Twin Cities Coyote and Fox Project, has helped researchers gather leads and community science data. Because hundreds of FMR members contributed sightings, this valuable project to demystify wild canines is on its way, and has some intriguing preliminary findings.
COMING TOGETHER FOR ACCOUNTABILITY AT FORD AREA C
Ford Motor Company doesn’t operate in St. Paul anymore, but their massive pile of hazardous waste remains on our capital city's riverfront. “Can I just have a show of hands?” one community member asked attendees of the standing-room-only Ford Area C public meeting. “I assume everybody in here wants it all gone.” Every hand went up. That show of hands from 150 FMR members and friends showed Ford, the MPCA and the city the powerful community will for a clean future at Area C. The process will be long, but our outreach and advocacy have already resulted in expanded monitoring.
When our youth coordinator, Kate, found out schools were closing, she made a makeshift recording studio in her living room and set to work revamping FMR’s educational programs for online learners. Our team tailored curriculum on watersheds, invasive species, wetlands and erosion for creating a virtual classroom accessible to educators and families at home. More than a thousand people viewed these lessons in 2020, and educators offered their gratitude for vital, engaging resources in a difficult time.
CELEBRATING EARTH DAY APART
Though we had to cancel our annual Earth Day cleanup at the river gorge, you went out of your way to safely pick up trash in your own neighborhoods and greenspaces, and log your volunteer hours with us in April. When our stewardship events picked up again with safety measures in place, our volunteers were eager to get involved. Together, you contributed more than 2,650 hours to improve water quality and steward habitat this year.
of all ages
LAUNCHING THEFOREVER GREEN PARTNERSHIP
At the launch of the Forever Green Partnership in May, farmers, environmental advocates, researchers, state agency reps and agribusiness professionals began collaborating together to advance economically viable clean-water crops. Our network, activities and ambitions have continued to develop in the year since. We’re taking a lead role in this coalition because our water quality, climate challenges and rural development issues can only be solved by making a fundamental shift in what we grow and how we grow it.
Market Opportunity Development Specialist Forever Green Initiative
'The Forever Green Partnership was established to accelerate the commercialization of new crops and cropping systems that will protect our water and soil through continuous living cover. This is no easy task and requires engaging cross-sector collaborations that drive big, bold, and critical action. Friends of the Mississippi River's leadership in facilitating these collaborations, seeding dreams, telling stories and driving action has been invaluable and has helped my work with growers, entrepreneurs and communities across greater Minnesota leap forward.
WORKING TOWARD ANTI-RACISM, EQUITY AND INCLUSION
During the special legislative session following the Minneapolis Police's murder of George Floyd, we expressed solidarity with communities most impacted by systematic racism by supporting the Minnesota Legislature’s People of Color and Indigenous Caucus' calls for justice reforms. We also advocated that legislators stop investing state dollars in public riverfront projects that displace people of color and instead fund projects that support clean water for all.
COLLABORATINGWITH THE NEXT GENERATION
Youth impacted their communities
through our second Environmental Stewardship Institute
At Como Park in mid-July, youth presented their final projects from our Environmental Stewardship Institute: a fishing line receptacle at Hidden Falls Park, a seagull sculpture made of shoreline litter, mapped data around environmental justice issues in the Twin Cities, and more. After a summer of paid job experience and individualized learning with us, these young change-makers are prepared for even deeper engagement in a field that needs their creative perspectives.
—FIONA HATCH, participant
Environmental Stewardship Institute
pictured with a draft
of her final project
'This program was a great experience for me. Everyone was so passionate about our climate, and it was a great environment to be in!
I got the chance to explore environmental career paths in more depth than I would have been able to on my own. I also learned valuable life and career skills that can carry me into any path I choose to follow.'
HONORING DAKOTA HISTORYAND PRESENCE AT WAKÁŊ TIPI
Our updated habitat restoration plan
centers Dakota plants and practices
At the end of summer, volunteers pulled invasive burdock to begin the next phase of habitat restoration at this Dakota sacred site, also known as Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary. In collaboration with Lower Phalen Creek Project, our new plan prioritizes culturally important plants like prairie sage, and Dakota stewardship practices like prescribed burns. We’re excited to be working at the confluence of FMR’s ecological knowledge and Indigenous ecological and cultural knowledge.
Lower Phalen Creek Projectpictured at a Line 3 protest
'This partnership combines FMR’s ecological expertise with our organization's cultural knowledge and relationships in East Side communities to ensure that the restoration will not only create important and high-quality habitat for water and wildlife, but also provide a culturally relevant space that honors Wakáŋ Tipi/Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary as a Dakota sacred site. FMR has been instrumental to our volunteer events, providing the tools and guidance to help us engage our communities in the restoration. We're excited to keep advancing this work.'
CULTIVATING CLIMATE- RESILIENT RIVERFRONT FORESTS
You planted tree species
chosen to preserve our canopy through climate change
Minnesota’s increasing temperatures and other climatic stressors could threaten our floodplain tree species, leaving openings for invasive plants to take over. Their gain would be water quality and habitat’s loss, fueling erosion and reducing ecosystem resilience. That’s why we’re diversifying our forests now at places like the Minneapolis River Gorge and Settler’s Island, planting climate-adapted trees, like the sycamore pictured here, for the uncertain years ahead.
You won funding for safe drinking water
and cleaner lakes and rivers
In the fifth special session of the state Legislature, the Fix the Pipes Alliance we helped establish got what we asked for: more than $302 million to fund much-needed investments in drinking water infrastructure, outdated pipes, wells, water treatment plants and more. As a result of our coalition and River Guardians’ advocacy, we secured clean drinking water for Minnesotans, safeguarded communities from flooding, and protected lakes and rivers from pollution.
CALLING FOR A BETTER
UPPER HARBOR TERMINAL DEVELOPMENT PLAN
North Minneapolis murals raised awareness
about the risk of community displacement
Three eight-foot murals depicting scenes of resistance to gentrification traveled from yard to yard in North Minneapolis in November. Resident Sebastian Rivera and organizer Ricardo Perez painted the murals as part of our coordinated effort to ensure that the development, as Rivera puts it, “actually represents this community for now and in the future.” As a result of pressure from FMR and many allies, the city has committed to public ownership of this valuable site, and has postponed final votes on the project’s direction.
You convinced the city to reduce light pollution
along the Mississippi River flyway
New science-based rules we fought for will guide development in the Mississippi River’s designated critical area through the Twin Cities. But as cities adopt those rules, there’s a chance to make them even stronger. Minneapolis was the first to pass their updated river ordinance in December. As a result of our advocacy, the city strengthened requirements about lighting and building materials that will make the migration flyway less disorienting and dangerous for the millions of birds that make their way along the river each year.
—Council Member Cam Gordon
Minneapolis City Council
'Friends of the Mississippi River helped strengthen the Mississippi River Corridor Critical Area ordinance, which passed the Council last year.
This law will help make development near the river sensitive to its particular environmental needs and importance for years to come, and I was very glad to have FMR’s thoughtful and strategic guidance as the Council considered it.'
The river and all of us at FMR extend our gratitude for all that you made possible and helped achieve. Thank you for helping carry out our shared vision of clean waters, restored habitat and a river for all to enjoy.
THANK YOU, MEMBERS
for 12 months
of steadfast support
READ OUR FULL DONOR REPORT
for 12 months of steadfast support
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Statement of Financial Activities
JOIN US IN 2021
Whitney Clark, Executive Director
Kate Clayton, Youth Coordinator
Sara DeKok, Associate Director-Development Director
Sophie Downey, Volunteer & Outreach Coordinator
Tessa Enroth, Individual Gifts Officer
Jennifer Schuetz Hadley, Database Coordinator
Barb Heintz, Accountant
Laura Mann Hill, Stewardship & Education Program Director
Peter LaFontaine, Agricultural Policy Manager
Tahera Mamdani, Finance Director
Lisa Mueller, Conservation Director
Ashley O'Neill Prado, Administrative & Programs Assistant
sue rich, Communications Director
Ellie Rogers, Communications Associate
Alex Roth, Ecologist
Trevor Russell, Water Program Director
Karen Schik, Senior Ecologist
Colleen O'Connor Toberman, River Corridor Director
Ronnie Brooks, Chair
Chad Dayton, Vice Chair
Perry McGowan, Treasurer
Peter Gove, Secretary
Dr. John Anfinson
July: Ellie Rogers
August: Alex RothSeptember: FMR
October: USEPA (Flickr)
December: John Soucheray
Join Us: Tom Reiter, Steve Cronin, Dodd Demas
Note: Some photos taken pre-COVID
Cover: Tom Reiter
Programs: FMR, Tom Reiter, FMR, FMR
January: Dave and Karla McKenzie
February: Margie O'Laughlin
March: NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio
April: Dhaivyd Hilgendorf
May: Janet and Phil (Flickr)
June: Adobe stock
Our mission:Friends of the Mississippi Riverengages people to protect, restore and enhancethe Mississippi River and its watershedin the Twin Cities region.
101 E. Fifth Street Suite 2000
Saint Paul, MN 55101