River Guardians' impact in 2021

Thank you, River Guardians! In another tumultuous year, we relied on you to advocate for the river, and you didn't disappoint.

There are now more than 3,000 FMR River Guardians. In 2021, you sent more than 4,000 letters to 163 decision-makers, making a direct impact on the health of the river and our environment. We are so grateful for your support and continued advocacy.

Check out the thank-you video we recorded for you (complete with outtakes at the end) celebrating your accomplishments.

River Guardians' successes in 2021

Water program

This year, you made a significant difference at the state and national levels.

You secured funding for the University of Minnesota's Forever Green Initiative, a research and market development program creating the next generation of clean-water crops like Kernza and camelina that reduce runoff pollution and improve habitat while supporting farmers' bottom lines.

You secured lottery money for our environment (through the state's Environment & Natural Resources Trust Fund), including funding for FMR pollinator habitat projects and restoration work at sites in Inver Grove Heights, Minneapolis, St. Paul and Maplewood.

You made it possible for Minnesota to replace lead service lines, ensuring safer drinking water. Funding allocated for lead service line replacement will help Minnesota begin replacing the more than 100,000 lead service lines in our state.

You advanced the Mississippi River Restoration & Resilience Initiative (MRRRI), a new 10-state river corridor funding initiative that has been introduced in the House and will soon be introduced in the U.S. Senate. When passed, MRRRI will fund new investments in water quality, river habitat, natural infrastructure and aquatic invasive species.

River Corridor program

You showed up for issues in your neighborhoods and backyards as well. With your support, our River Corridor program participated in over 30 planning and development projects in 14 cities and townships this year.

You sent a message to protect Minneapolis' drinking water. When we learned that the Army Corps of Engineers wanted to walk away from their ownership of the Upper St. Anthony Falls lock in downtown Minneapolis, you helped us gather over 600 petition signatures to ensure that lock functions like drinking water supply and invasive carp prevention don't fall into private ownership.

You weighed in on cities' new riverfront development ordinances across the metro. FMR and other community members also successfully defended Minneapolis' new ordinance when it encountered its first test and appeal this summer, setting a regional precedent for upholding our new river rules.

You advocated for parkland and open space preservation. This year 119 of you helped push for more parkland at the Mississippi Dunes golf course redevelopment in Cottage Grove. You also weighed in on other park and trail plans in St. Paul, Maplewood, Minneapolis and Hastings.

Looking ahead to 2022

2022 will bring many new opportunities, including additional FMR staff to support our River Guardians. We'll soon be starting the search for a Grassroots Organizing Coordinator to provide more events, trainings and opportunities for you. Watch for the job posting in January!

Water program

2022 promises to be one of the more consequential legislative sessions in recent memory. A large state budget surplus of $7.7 billion, paired with significant federal funds through the American Rescue Plan, bipartisan infrastructure bill and a potential Build Back Better bill, will make unprecedented resources available in conservation.

We're also excited about the potential for MRRRI to advance in Congress next year.

Keep an eye out for more information on legislative opportunities early in 2022, and follow the Water and Legislative Updates blog to stay up to date.

River Corridor program

In 2022 we'll continue our work on riverfront development ordinances and expect to see several cities (including St. Paul) adopt these new protections. There will be plenty of other local planning and development issues throughout the year as well.

We'll begin offering more events exploring a big question in 2022: Is it time to remove some dams on the Mississippi River? Watch for tours, workshops, advocacy opportunities and more in the coming year. Check the River Corridor blog to stay up to date.

We look forward to working with you again in 2022. Thank you for your continued support and advocacy!

Become a River Guardian

Not a River Guardian yet? Sign up now to join us in advocating for the river. We'll send updates and email action alerts when threats or opportunities for the river arise, plus invitations to educational happy hours and other events.

Questions? Contact River Guardians Program Coordinator Sophie Downey at sdowney@fmr.org.

Read more Water program updates and River Corridor program land use and development updates.