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Meet Great River Energy: Member of the Month

July 5th, 2016

Great River Energy is a not-for-profit cooperative which provides wholesale electric service to 28 distribution cooperatives located in Minnesota. Those member cooperatives distribute electricity to approximately 665,000 families, farms and businesses. With $4 billion in assets, Great River Energy is the second largest electric power supplier in Minnesota, and one of the largest generation and transmission cooperatives in the United States.

Great River Energy takes great pride in conducting our business with a high concern for the environment.

We are committed to conserving resources through environmental stewardship, pollution prevention, waste minimization, recycling and reuse. This dedication is demonstrated by the inclusion of environmental sustainability in our mission.

As a cooperative, Great River Energy holds commitment to community in high regard. One of the ways we do that is through re-establishing native habitat.

We are excited to be announcing a new project!HQ prairie solar.jpg

Together with the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) and the city of Elk River, Great River Energy will be converting nine acres into pollinator prairie habitat at its Elk River campus off U.S. Highway 10. With more than 27,000 cars driving by daily, this well-traveled area is perfect for educating the traveling public about the importance of pollinator friendly, prairie plantings.

Past native prairie projects

Great River Energy, for the last decade, has invested in over 200 acres of re-established native prairie.  Some of Great River Energy’s native prairie projects include:

  • Establishing native prairie along transmission lines outside of Savage, Minn., and in the city of Ramsey, Minn., both with park systems.
  • Planting pollinator friendly habitat along Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center’s solar array and in their interpretive center in fall 2015.
  • Incorporating pollinator prairie as part of the landscape architecture at Great River Energy’s headquarters building in Maple Grove, Minn.
  • Restoring more than 120 acres of prairie near Lakefield Junction Station, Pleasant Valley Peaking Station, Cambridge Peaking Plant, and near Great River Energy’s New Prague office.

More resources

For more information about the Elk River pollinator project, visit greatriverenergy.com/elkriverbees.

For more information and links to resources about native plantings, visit greatriverenergy.com/pollinators.

Great River Energy has had a long-term commitment to Environmental Initiative. We have been a member of the Convener Partnership Circle for some time, and this year marked our ninth year as a presenting sponsor of the Environmental Initiative Awards program held each May. Great River Energy is a proud supporter of Environmental Initiative.

Mary Jo Roth

POSTED BY:

Manager, Environmental Services at Great River Energy

Better Together for Bees

March 7th, 2016

On February 12, 2016, Environmental Initiative hosted a Pollinator Summit at the Wellstone Neighborhood House on behalf of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. While we are still in the midst of digesting the massive amounts of input and information that came out of the summit, I want to reflect a bit on the experience and what it meant to live out Environmental Initiative’s values of “Open Exchange” and “Better Together” in the context of designing and organizing this event.pollinator summit participants

Research (and the headlines) reveal our pollinators are threatened. We know if we don’t do something soon, we risk losing many of our domesticated bees and entire species of wild pollinators. Participants at the summit heard from experts about the many different stresses pollinators face – from pesticide use, to habitat loss, to parasites, and a changing climate.

Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith set the stage for us at the beginning of the summit by channeling John Lennon and singing for us (!) a rallying cry “All we are saying, is give bees a chance!” And that was the goal of the summit — to gather real, meaningful ideas from the community that could be implemented by state government to support our wild and domesticated pollinators. The community grabbed this opportunity with both hands. Instead of the 100 or so attendees we initially planned for, we ended up with more than 200 registered participants!

DESIGNING FOR ENGAGEMENT

We had one of the most diverse communities gathered that I have seen in my time at Environmental Initiative. Farmers, lobbyists, hobby beekeepers, landscape architects, activists, academics, legislators, and local government all had a seat at the table. Environmental Initiative’s job was to make sure we designed and executed an event that gave every participant a voice.

So, that’s what we did. We designed a summit that forced participants to engage with others. We placed an emphasis on small group discussions and deliberately organized discussion groups to have a set of diverse stakeholders at each table. We also asked each group to report out up to three broadly supported ideas for action, which we then posted on the wall for all other groups to react to.

That’s not to say that there wasn’t disagreement. Of course there was. Not all of the ideas we generated at the summit will be able to be implemented, but some might. The point is we created a space where folks could talk with, rather than past, each other about all of the ways we could improve the outlook for our pollinators.

We’re in the process of reviewing all of the input generated at the summit and preparing a summary for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. Thank you to everyone who took the time to participate in this important conversation. Watch the blog and your email in the coming weeks for the summary of what we heard. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture will be reviewing all of the input from the summit to help inform their strategies for pollinator protection.

While it remains to be seen what ideas get adopted and put into practice, I walked out of the summit knowing that by living up to our values of “Better Together” and “Open Exchange”, my colleagues and I at Environmental Initiative did the best we could to give our insect pollinators a chance.

Greg Bohrer

POSTED BY:

Senior Manager, Agriculture and Environment Program

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