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Archive for September, 2015

Project Green Fleet Makes Waves

September 30th, 2015

For those who are unaware, one year ago we announced the completion of our mission to retrofit every eligible school bus in Minnesota thatProject Green Fleet Media Event it makes sense to retrofit with pollution reduction equipment. Through Project Green Fleet (our diesel emission reduction partnership with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency) we retrofitted over 3,200 buses and, combined with other engines, eliminated air emissions quivalent to removing 750,000 cars from the road every year. Naturally, we celebrated for a whole five minutes before announcing our next initiative to match those reductions pound for pound for a total emissions reduction equivalent of 1.5 million cars. Considering there are less than 6 million motor vehicles registered in the state, that’s no small fleet (rimshot).

In this second phase of Project Green Fleet, we’re setting our sights on bigger, older, and dirtier heavy-duty engines. These engines are at work across the construction sector, at airports and railyards, and at our ports. So, on a soggy Thursday morning with the help of our funders from Flint Hills Resources and our friends at the City of Saint Paul, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Saint Paul Port Authority, Upper River Services, and Caterpillar Ziegler, we announced the first retrofit in this new phase and our biggest to date. We also got a little media coverage, which was great:

The Becky Sue is a 38 year-old towboat operated by Upper River Services. Lee Nelson, Owner of Upper River Services, heard of Project Green Fleet and thought it was a good opportunity to give ol’ Becky Sue a new lease on life. She’ll get two new 600-horsepower engines that will ensure she hauls Minnesota’s goods and materials for years to come. Equally impressive is that she’ll be doing more with less (pollution, that is).

Upgrading the Becky Sue from her unregulated engines to EPA-certified Tier III equipment will eliminate over 20 tons of air emissions each year, the equivalent to removing 12,000 cars from the road.

If you drive to work, try this some time. Lets assume (heaven forbid) you work five days a week for all 52 weeks in the year. As you sit in traffic, count 46 cars in front or around you each day. Now imagine they disappear. Day after day after day. For a year. Every year. That’s the kind of impact this project has. And those are just two engines.

Make no mistake, achieving another 750,000 car-equivalent reduction is going to be a challenge. It’s also going to be another incredible milestone in Project Green Fleet and our ongoing mission to reduce emissions and exposure through voluntary collaborative efforts.

And the 5 minutes we take to celebrate before announcing our next initiative will be twice as sweet.

Bjorn Olson


Senior Environmental Project Associate

Declining walleye population in Mille Lacs Lake: finding common ground key to solution

September 29th, 2015

There has been a lot of media coverage this year about environmental issues that should concern us all, such as declining walleye population in Mille Lacs Lake. I honestly don’t know what thing, or combination of things, is causing this particular problem. There are plenty of competing theories to go around as to what is behind this phenomenon. I’ve heard or read of at least six described with varying degrees of passion, and all have some ring of plausibility. However, the common thread I see in all the theories and arguments is that everyone wants to blame someone, and that someone is “someone else.”Jane Got a Gun 2016 live streaming film online

Reflections on a Wilderness Lake

My personal belief is that there are probably a number of factors in play at Mille Lacs Lake that, in combination, are leading to the walleye decline. It’s also my belief that everybody involved or impacted by the problem will remain upset, and no real progress will be made, as long as the mutual finger-pointing continues. My compliments to those stakeholders that have acknowledged at least the possibility that they may be contributing to the problem, or realize they have the power to make it incrementally better, and are willing to take action to do something.

It’s that last thought above that brings me back to Environmental Initiative and its track record of success through collaborative partnerships. Good things happen when people can put aside their quarrels and differences for even a short time, examine common problems objectively, and look for ways to make it better. Not every outcome needs to be a home run (although there have been a few, such as Project Green Fleet). Enough base hits will win the game eventually, but we all need to be willing to walk onto the field or it will never ever be played.

In my opinion, Environmental Initiative’s real strength lies in its ability to provide that neutral playing field where competing concerns, ideas, and opinions can meet. Of course, Environmental Initiative does not sell peanuts or beer to raise revenue for the figurative ball fields they create, instead relying on contributions from the players themselves and fans like you who are reading this blog. Environmental Initiative’s website makes it easy to become a member and donate (or donate again). Think of it as buying a ticket for a front row seat to a really terrific game. Maybe you’ll be there when Environmental Initiative hits its next grand slam!

Terry Coss


Environmental Initiative Board of Directors

Field Stewards project receives major U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) grant

September 25th, 2015

September 15, 2015: United States Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the award of $243,933 over three years from the Conservation Innovation Grants program to Environmental Initiative and Conservation Marketplace Midwest (CMM) to support the Field Stewards project, an offset credit system for environmental protection on farmland in development by Environmental Initiative.


“This year’s slate of projects is truly outstanding,” Vilsack said. “Our partner awardees are progressive and forward-thinking and looking to solve natural resource problems, and also engaging with underserved farmers and ranchers.”

The Field Stewards project will reward farmers for meeting a high level of environmental protection on their commodity crop (corn and soybean) fields. Food companies can purchase environmental credits generated by certified farmers, and use them to offset the environmental impact of a company’s supply chain. USDA grant funds will be shared among the project partners to develop the policy and administrative framework of the proposed Field Stewards market, recruit and enroll eligible farmers, and deploy and test the market system.

“The Field Stewards project is an unique approach to protecting natural resources in farm country,” said Mike Harley, Executive Director of Environmental Initiative. “With the help of this grant from the USDA and support from private business, Field Stewards will support leading producers who achieve a strong level of environmental protection in their farm operations.”

“As we work with producers to implement voluntary best management practices that protect and restore our natural resources, it is beneficial to have a program like Field Stewards that provides a financial incentive,” said Dennis Fuchs, Stearns County Soil and Water Conservation District Administrator and CMM Board President. “It shows the producer that private industry is willing to support their extra efforts associated with implementing additional conservation practices.”

Other Field Stewards project funders include the McKnight Foundation and GNP Company.

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service awarded $20.5 million for 45 projects through Conservation Innovation Grants. More information about the grants can be found here.

If you would like more information about the Field Stewards program please contact Greg Bohrer, Senior Manager, Agriculture and Environment Program, at 612-334-3388 ext. 111.

Greg Bohrer


Senior Manager, Agriculture and Environment Program
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