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Julie Blackburn– A Champion For Impact Through Partnership

November 7th, 2017

Julie Blackburn has been a longtime supporter and member of Environmental Initiative. In her prior role as Assistant Director of the Board of Water and Soil Resources, Julie was a key partner on the Land and Water Policy Project led by Environmental Initiative nearly ten years ago, which resulted in recommendations to streamline and better coordinate state and local resource planning efforts.

Now Julie leads the Minnesota regional office for RESPEC Consulting and Services and is a member of the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council (LSOHC). Made up of 12 individuals representing state legislators and public appointees, the LSOHC is responsible for making annual funding recommendations to the state legislature for projects funded by the Outdoor Heritage Fund. The Outdoor Heritage Fund is one of four funds created by the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment and provides approximately $80 million in annual funding for projects that restore, protect, and enhance wetlands, prairies, forests, and habitat for fish, game, and wildlife across Minnesota.

The Outdoor Heritage Fund Outcomes Project

In early 2017, the LSOHC contracted with Environmental Initiative to design and manage a process to define intended outcomes and impacts for the Outdoor Heritage Fund. The first phase of this endeavor concluded in July 2017 with a report that synthesizes outcome and indicator recommendations from stakeholders representing thought leaders and experts in conservation from various sectors and perspectives. The stakeholder work group for this process was tasked with developing recommended outcome metrics for the Outdoor Heritage Fund to demonstrate public benefit resulting from fund investments and provide accountability to the Legislature and to taxpayers for the use of public money invested via the fund.

Our short process resulted in recommended outcome statements related to fish habitat, wildlife/game habitat, outdoor recreation, and secondary benefits to people resulting from Outdoor Heritage Fund investments. Furthermore, the group identified specific indicators that could be used to measure progress toward these intended outcomes. Further work to explore potential data sources and measurement methods to evaluate the outcomes is anticipated in the near future. You can read more about the process and project results here »

Leadership & Shared Values

Throughout our organization, but especially in our policy work, our processes are highly focused on outcomes, accountability, and open exchange of ideas. In the Outdoor Heritage Fund project specifically, I got to see Julie also exhibit and apply these values. On topics like habitat conservation, where many people are extremely knowledgeable and passionate, it’s difficult to pull up out of the weeds of the technical details to focus on partnership and collaboration. But, Julie was an early advocate and important partner throughout this project and we are grateful for her leadership and willingness to advocate for transparency, accountability, and the ultimate impacts resulting from this important resource for Minnesota’s conservation legacy.

Ultimately, Julie’s dedication and willingness to put in the hard work and perseverance that partnership requires made the process successful. As an organization, we’re thankful to have people like Julie—who showcase a true, collaborative spirit and bring it to their work—in our corner and in our community.


A note from Environmental Initiative:
In honor of Environmental Initiative’s 25th anniversary, members of our staff will take turns throughout the year highlighting the organization’s most influential and effective collaborators. We want to say thank you to the amazing people who help us achieve all we do. 

Ellen Gibson

POSTED BY:

Senior Program Director

Greg Bohrer Selected to Participate in the Minnesota Agricultural & Rural Leadership Program

November 14th, 2016

We are proud to share that Greg Bohrer, Senior Manager of Agriculture & Environment at Environmental Initiative was one of thirty individuals selected to participate in the Minnesota Agriculture and Rural Leadership Program. Two thirds of participants are agricultural producers and the other third are people involved in agribusiness or rural leadership positions.

GregAs a member of Class IX, Greg will participate in a dynamic two-year educational experience featuring several in-state seminars, a six-day national study seminar, and a 10- to 14-day international study seminar. The current cohort meets starting next week through April 2018.

“I am really looking forward to the program, said Greg Bohrer – Senior Manager, Agriculture and Environment, “This is a tremendous opportunity to get to know other emerging leaders in agriculture and rural Minnesota and to develop my own leadership skills and understanding of agricultural issues. I am excited to start diving into it and am grateful to have been selected.”

Program curriculum covers a range of topics including leadership development, rural industry and trade, natural resources, and diversity. The goal of the program is to help rural and agricultural leaders develop the necessary skills to maximize their impact across local, state, and international arenas.

Congratulations to Greg and to his fellow Minnesota Agricultural & Rural Leadership Program participants. Meet Class IX »

Ellen Gibson

POSTED BY:

Senior Program Director

Chemical Regulation and Policy – The Heavy Lifting

May 16th, 2012

Collaborative problem solving is hard work, and progress on some of the most challenging issues facing society does not always take the form of complete consensus. In some cases advancing the dialogue and laying the groundwork for further discussion is a worthwhile effort that ultimately may set the stage for a win-win solution further down the line.

The Minnesota Chemical Regulation and Policy Project has just about concluded, after countless hours of creative and constructive dialogue stretched over fourteen stakeholder Work Group meetings spanning more than two years. Environmental Initiative has appreciated the opportunity to work with such a dedicated and capable group of individuals to wrestle with this difficult issue. Over the course of the project, we’ve learned that chemical management and policy is extremely complex and multi-dimensional – regulators and decision makers need to weigh complicated scientific information against public health and economic considerations and try to provide adequate assurance of safety while making sure we all continue to benefit from robust chemical and consumer product industries. This is not an easy task, and as I described in a past post, Chemicals Policy 101 – What You Need to Know, government officials across the country at all levels (federal, state and local) have been grappling with this challenge for quite some time.

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Ellen Gibson

POSTED BY:

Senior Program Director

GreenBiz Forum 2012: Optimistic Outlook with a Healthy Dose of Reality

January 27th, 2012

On a frigid morning last week, I joined 200 national and local business leaders at Best Buy’s LEED-certified headquarters for the Minneapolis stop of the three-city GreenBiz Forum 2012 “tour.”

For those unfamiliar with GreenBiz, they are a national group that provides resources and learning opportunities to help companies integrate environmental responsibility into their operations.

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Ellen Gibson

POSTED BY:

Senior Program Director

Chemicals Policy 101: What You Need to Know

October 4th, 2011

“Chemistry is everywhere.” My college offered an undergraduate course with this title, but it wasn’t until relatively recently that I fully understood how true this statement is. Each of us encounters hundreds of chemical compounds every day. Whether in the air we breathe, soaps we use, plastics we handle, or even the water we drink – chemistry is essential and inescapable.

In the United States, chemicals in commerce are regulated under the federal Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA – pronounced “TOSCA”), which was passed into law in 1976 and has not been updated since. TSCA gives the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the authority to maintain an inventory of chemicals in commerce, regulate unreasonable risk from toxic chemicals, and disclose certain health and safety information. Of the approximately 85,000 chemical substances on the TSCA inventory, only five have been actively regulated by EPA in the 35 years since TSCA’s enactment. Of course, not all chemicals are harmful. Many chemicals have been extensively tested and are shown to be safe. Still, there is wide acknowledgment that TSCA is not as effective as it could be at protecting the public from dangerous chemicals. The need to reform TSCA appears on the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) High Risk List and the EPA has released a set of principles for TSCA reform and a suite of activities to strengthen its chemical management program activities in the meantime.

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Ellen Gibson

POSTED BY:

Senior Program Director

Swapping Supply Chain Stories: Business and Environment Session Recap

August 24th, 2011

Last Thursday, around 60 people gathered at Renewal by Andersen’s manufacturing facility in Cottage Grove – in a bright, window-filled room, of course – to discuss motivations and strategies for greening their supply chains.

This session was the second in our 2011 Business and Environment Series. The three events in this year’s series are designed to provide tools to help diverse professionals more effectively plan, implement and lead sustainability programs in their organizations. It’s clear that looking beyond internal initiatives to the sustainability of your products throughout their entire lifecycle – and greening your supply chain – brings greater opportunity for environmental benefit and cost-savings. However, greening your supply chain isn’t always easy. It requires navigating a complex network of suppliers and customers, managing multiple information requests, tracking lots of new data, and prioritizing and communicating in new ways. (more…)

Ellen Gibson

POSTED BY:

Senior Program Director
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