River Guardians' impacts in 2022

Paddleboat on river with young angler

FMR River Guardians weigh in on everything from legislative issues to neighborhood developments — all to ensure a cleaner, more accessible river for current and future generations. (Photo by David Wheaton)

Thank you, River Guardians! Your advocacy made 2022 an exciting year, and we're thankful for every one of your efforts to protect the Mississippi River. 

In 2022, 1,225 River Guardians sent more than 2,974 letters to 166 decision-makers, significantly impacting our work towards a healthier, more resilient river community. We are so grateful for your support and continued advocacy.

Here are some highlights of your successes in 2022.

Kernza field

Your advocacy secured major investments in clean-water crops at the state Legislature in 2022. (Photo by Dodd Demas for FMR)

Legislative wins

In a year where little emerged from a contentious Legislature, River Guardians made a clear difference. Your sent more than 528 messages to lawmakers during the legislative session, helping to secure more than $1.2 million in bipartisan funding for clean-water crops coming out of the University of Minnesota's Forever Green Initiative.

Our top priority at the Legislature this year, this investment will move us closer to a more water-friendly agricultural landscape. Increased funding for crops such as Kernza and winter camelina will help to reduce runoff pollution and provide new pollinator habitat, all while providing farmers with new economic growth opportunities.

Your letters and messages to lawmakers (more than 270 in total this session) also helped direct more than $70 million to a variety of environmental projects, including important river and habitat work through Environment & Natural Resources Trust Fund appropriations

Your advocacy helped ensure the Omnibus Legacy Bill included significant funding for four FMR priority projects: Cottage Grove Ravine Regional Park, Pine Bend Bluffs Natural Area, Vermillion Falls Park and William H. Houlton Conservation Area. The bill also made a pair of subtle but important changes to the process the State’s Clean Water Council uses to make recommendations to the Legislature on how best to allocate the state’s Clean Water Fund.

MRRRI, the Mississippi River's first federal initiative

At the federal level, River Guardians were crucial in getting the Mississippi River Restoration and Resilience Initiative Act introduced last year. Since then, we’ve continued to bring in new collaborative members from up and down the Mississippi River corridor while addressing opportunities for a more inclusive process for Indigenous communities in the design.

As we head into a new Congress, we’re excited about what’s next for MRRRI. That includes a reintroduction of the bill in 2023, hopefully with bipartisan authors/sponsors.

The Walz administration's Climate Action Framework

You sent more than 160 messages to voice support for the Walz administration’s newly proposed Climate Action Framework, which could be a powerful tool for ushering in the next generation of climate policy. Although the framework mainly outlines the administration’s goals for mitigating climate change, your input in supporting initial steps like these is crucial in ensuring the next administration follows through with their budget recommendations and bold policy. 

People on a paddleboat on the river

River Guardians took a private boat tour of Twin Cities locks and dams this fall to learn more about the future of our river.

The future of metro locks & dams

You made sure your voice was heard about what you want for the future of the river, not only for upcoming development projects but also for generations to come. 

You sent more than 170 comments to the Army Corps of Engineers about the future of two Twin Cities locks and dams. Your input will help shape the disposition study’s scoping process to ensure that it reflects community questions and concerns for the river and the intriguing possibility of dam removal.

You joined over 800 community members in participating in presentations and walking, biking and kayak tours, including one special boat tour just for River Guardians, to learn more about our locks and dams and what's ahead.

Planning and development projects

You showed up for issues in your neighborhoods and backyards as well. With your support, our Land Use & Planning program participated in nearly 30 planning and development projects from end to end of the metro river corridor.

You joined us in attending community meetings and providing feedback on riverfront development projects such as The Falls initiative at the Upper St. Anthony lock, the River Learning Center and many more. Your efforts to show up and speak up are crucial in our work to center community needs along the river.  

In Ramsey County, River Guardians wrote more than 80 heartfelt letters to county leaders urging them to stop their development plans for a county-owned Maplewood grassland that’s home to endangered birds. Your letters made a difference! While the site’s future is still undetermined, we’re optimistic that this endangered habitat will be preserved.

Looking ahead to 2023

Next year will bring many new opportunities, including additional events for River Guardians to get more connected to FMR through social hours, engagement events and other community meetings.

Water program

2023 promises to be one of the more consequential legislative sessions in recent memory. A record state budget surplus paired with significant federal funds through the American Rescue Plan, bipartisan infrastructure bill and the Inflation Reduction Act 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 2023, and follow our legislative updates to stay current.

Land Use & Planning program

In 2023 we’ll work to tackle one of the greatest challenges to the river: stopping carp from moving further upstream on the Mississippi river. We look forward to connecting with our River Guardians more on this topic during this legislative session. 

We’ll also continue to engage with development projects, such as the Boys Totem Town (BTT) site, and ensure the adoption of riverfront development ordinances in cities like St. Paul. There will be plenty of other local planning and development issues throughout the year as well.

We'll keep working with the Army Corps of Engineers as we explore one of the major questions for the river: 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 Land Use & Planning updates to stay current.

Become a River Guardian

Sign up and we'll email you when important river issues arise. We make it quick and easy to contact decision-makers. River Guardians are also invited to special social hours and other events about legislative and metro river corridor issues.

Explore all of our Water updates.

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