April 2009


I’m happy to pass along Dovetail Partners’ new report, “Community-Based Bioenergy and District Heating: Benefits, Challenges, Opportunities and Recommendations for Woody Biomass”.

This report specifically focuses on the thermal uses for wood as it applies to (1) district (community) heating and (2) combined heat and power (electricity) applications (cogeneration or Combined Heat and Power, CHP). District heating and CHP have enormous potential in the upper Midwest, including Minnesota. The opportunities and challenges of expanding district heating projects in the region are explored in this report. Lessons learned from around the U.S. and from other parts of the world are presented, as well as recommendations for further domestic development.

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Earlier this week I had the pleasure to meet up with Seeing Forest AND the Trees Productivity travellers who gathered to preview a rough cut of the video documentary being produced for the tour by John Whitehead, of Fretless Films.

John’s talents are well displayed in the Bell Museum’s Minnesota, History of the Land series, and we were excited to see what he had made in film of our study project. These members of the tour’s “building a constituency for productive forests” action team had so much feedback for John that he may not emerge from his editing studio again for several weeks. Seriously, he was a very good sport as we inundated him with our reactions and suggestions. More on John’s film later this summer, when it makes its public debute.

Today I can share with you a new resource presented to the “Building a Constituency” team, developed as a result of the study tours — a report written by our friends at Dovetails, Inc. Building a Constituency of Forest Productivity Advocates: What do we know about Minnesotan’s Natural Resource Priorities? uses polling and public survey research to provide insights into what policy changes and actions people are likely to support, and where opportunities for engagement and creation of a “forestry constituency” may exist. Katie Fernholz summarized the report findings in a .ppt to the committee, which you can view here.

The recommendations are practical and visionary. Getting them done will require, as usual, vision and collaboration, and oh yes, that unique quality we heard so much about in Finland…. sisu.

Forest Values / Carbon Markets Conference LogoIn February 2009, Blandin Foundation’s Vital Forests / Vital Communities Initiative hosted a conference, Forest Values and Carbon Markets: Opportunities for Minnesota.

One outcome of the conference was a webinar that drilled deeper into the implications of carbon markets for forests and forest practices in Minnesota.

With the technical assistance of U of M Extension Educator Eli Sagor, the webinar was delivered on April 8, 2009, and is presented here in four segments:

photo by John Connelly

photo by John Connelly

Today I am delighted to share with VFVC Blog readers the news that Blandin Foundation Trustees have approved a $7 million grant to The Conservation Fund for the Upper Mississippi Forest project.

Full details are outlined in the news release below.

This action is in direct support of our VFVC objective to maintain Minnesota’s forest resource base and reduce losses caused by conversion, parcelization, and fragmentation of private lands and disposal of public lands. It aslo responds to the recognition by our partners including MFRC, MFRP and the Governor’s Task Force on Competitiveness of Minnesota’s Primary Forest Products Industry that fragmentation as the number one challenge to Minnesota’s forests.

News Release

Contact:
Cathy Kennedy, The Conservation Fund, (612) 309-3951
Allison Rajala Ahcan, Blandin Foundation, (218) 259-2893

BLANDIN FOUNDATION COMMITS $7 MILLION
TO THE CONSERVATION FUND
FOR UPPER MISSISSIPPI FOREST PROJECT

Donation Supports a Broad Effort to Keep Significant Expanse of Forest Intact; R.K. Mellon Foundation Also Commits $2 Million

Grand Rapids (April 1, 2009) – Demonstrating its commitment to strengthening Minnesota communities, the board of trustees of the Grand Rapids-based Blandin Foundation has approved a $7 million grant for the Upper Mississippi Forest project.

The grant will be made to The Conservation Fund, which is helping facilitate the transaction between Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the landowner, UPM/Blandin Paper Company. If the Minnesota Legislature approves the Lessard Outdoor Heritage Council’s recommendations to fund the balance of the costs, the Upper Mississippi Forest conservation easement will become the largest public access recreational area in the state of Minnesota, protecting the land against forest fragmentation.

“The Upper Mississippi Forest conservation easement will help protect the jobs of more than 3,200 families who rely upon this land remaining a working forest for their livelihoods, and hundreds of others who make a living in related businesses,” said Jim Hoolihan, Blandin Foundation president.

“Plus, the conservation easement will keep nearly 188,000 acres of Minnesota’s North Woods open for enjoyment by all and permanently protect forest habitats, creating a legacy that will live forever. By helping to secure this forest heritage project, the Blandin Foundation underscores its roots and invests in a natural asset that will contribute to our region and our state forever.”

Earlier this month, the Lessard Outdoor Heritage Council recommended $20 million for the Upper Mississippi Forest as the first of two years’ allocations of funds that will be generated under the Clean Water, Land and Legacy constitutional amendment, which was overwhelmingly approved by Minnesota voters in November 2008. The Minnesota Legislature is now considering the recommendations of the Council.

In addition to the Blandin Foundation gift, The Conservation Fund, which is helping negotiate the working forest easement, also announced a $2 million gift from the R. K. Mellon Foundation, bringing the total private contributions to $9 million.
“The Blandin Foundation’s commitment to the Upper Mississippi Forest project is the largest private donation for a conservation project ever made in this state,” said Tom Duffus, Upper Midwest Director of The Conservation Fund. “The Blandin Foundation and R.K. Mellon Foundation gifts create a true public-private funding base for this project that will significantly stretch public dollars and enable the Outdoor Heritage Fund to complete this purchase in a timely way and fund other worthy projects around the state.”

The Conservation Fund intends to re-grant the foundations’ contributions to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources when the DNR closes on the transaction with UPM, Duffus said. The DNR’s Lessard Outdoor Heritage Council application indicated some $48 million are needed for the Upper Mississippi Forest project.

At 187,277 acres, the Upper Mississippi Forest lands combine with adjacent county, state and federal lands to create more than 4,000 square miles of uninterrupted forest habitat. The forestlands lie primarily in Itasca, Aitkin, St. Louis, Koochiching, Cass and Beltrami counties.

Owned and managed by UPM/Blandin Paper Company (unrelated to the foundation by a similar name), the forest project includes 60,000 acres of wetlands and more than 280 miles of lake and stream frontage. The proposed working forest conservation easement would be held and monitored by the DNR and would permit sustainable forest management and timber harvesting; public access for hiking, hunting, fishing and other recreational activities; and provide wildlife habitat protection. The project also will protect wetlands and water quality in the upper watershed and primary tributaries to the Mississippi River.

“The Conservation Fund’s work to bring private dollars to the table to move this project forward signifies the importance of conserving these forestlands for all to enjoy while maintaining the economic viability of the region,” said DNR Commissioner Mark Holsten. “The substantial gift by the Blandin Foundation demonstrates the foresight by local community leadership to leave this North Woods legacy for future generations.”

The Upper Mississippi Forest project is supported by statewide conservation, recreational and environmental organizations; and in the Grand Rapids area, some 20 business, local government and conservation entities have endorsed the Forest Legacy Program.

UPM Blandin Paper issued this statement about progress on the negotiations:

“UPM Blandin Paper is in serious discussions with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources regarding a conservation easement project on UPM’s 188,000 acres of forest land in Minnesota. A successful project is one in which the parties can reach agreement on an acceptable easement, price and a schedule for timely closing. UPM Blandin Paper is committed to working on a solution that would require sustainable management of the property as it is today, regardless of who may own the property in the future.”

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About the Blandin Foundation
Based in Grand Rapids, Minn., the Blandin Foundation works to strengthen rural Minnesota communities, especially the Grand Rapids area, through grants, leadership development programs and public policy initiatives. http://www.blandinfoundation.org

About The Conservation Fund
The Conservation Fund is dedicated to advancing America’s land and water legacy. With our partners, we conserve land, train leaders and invest in conservation at home. Since 1985, we have helped protect more than 6 million acres, sustaining wild havens, working lands and vibrant communities. We’re a top-ranked conservation organization, effective and efficient. http://www.conservationfund.org