I write today to share the news that Blandin Foundation will formally conclude our Vital Forests/Vital Communities Initiative by the end of this year. Intended to have a 3-5 year life, VF/VC was launched in 2003 to strengthen and diversity Minnesota’s forest-based economy and promote the long-term ecological health of the forest resource that supports it. In deciding to conclude the initiative, Blandin Foundation Trustees reaffirmed the role our forests play in our healthy community strategies.
Vital Forests/Vital Communities has been a vehicle for directing Foundation investments of over $15 million, coordinating investments and projects by others, including the Minnesota State Legislature, and marshalling a network of organizations and leaders to undertake a wide variety of forestry- and forest products industry-related activities. In all, this work has leveraged over $40 million dollars from other organizations towards the Initiative’s goals. (LINK TO GOALS PAGE OF VFVC)
Over the months remaining in 2009, project staff will work towards the smooth and successful conclusion and/or sustainable hand-off of VF/VC-initiated projects. Our goals include laying the groundwork for future actions by others on critical forest policy issues, honoring the leadership of key partners, and helping position others to continue the work through Vital Forests/Vital Communities. With the help of a series of assessment reports, the Foundation also intends to evaluate the initiative, identify lessons learned, and share them with partners in the forestry and philanthropy fields.
While there is still lots of learning ahead as we move into an assessment phase of the project, VF/VC staff and Advisory Board members have identified some preliminary key messages from the work over the past several years:
- Forests are important to Minnesota’s economy, environment and communities.
- Minnesota should make the necessary investments to improve the quantity, quality and value of our forests and the forest products and benefits they provide.
- The organizations that care about Minnesota’s forests have the leadership, vision and shared commitment necessary to meet this challenge. They deserve public support.
We intend to work with partners, the VF/VC Advisory Board, and you, dear blog readers, to strategize on how best to deliver these core messages – and flag new and ongoing policy priorities – to audiences that matter. Together we’ve accomplished a lot – there is always more good work to do. As the late, former Governor Elmer Anderson often said, “You never lose when you pursue a worthy goal.” Minnesota has nothing to lose, and much to gain from continuing to focus on VF/VC’s worthy goal of promoting the connection between a healthy forest-based economy, healthy forest ecosystems, and healthy communities.