Minnesota is blessed with a diverse selection of nonprofit organizations and state agencies working on all types of environmental-related projects and programs involving water quality, conservation, natural resources, etc. There is some overlap between these organizations and agencies when it comes to their mission and the type of projects they focus on. Volunteer opportunities can include monitoring biological indicators like macroinvertebrates, adopting a river section to keep clean, and enroll undeveloped land into a permanent trust.
This outreach program was originally developed by the Rice Creek Watershed District to help meet water quality goals. Today it is an award-winning collaborative program with partners from local governmental units (watershed and conservation districts, cities, counties); nonprofit and community organizations; and nursery and landscape professionals. The aim of the program is to encourage homeowners to use native plant gardening, rain gardens, and shoreline stabilization to reduce runoff from their home landscape in an effort to improve water quality. Citizens can get involved in the program by doing a Blue Thumb planting, Help with a planting, Adopt a project, and Host a neighborhood Blue Thumb party.
Contact: 763-398-3070 - http://ricecreek.org/
Conservation Marketplace of Minnesota
A coalition of organizations and businesses are working together to offer a market-driven approach to assist landowners and agricultural producers in their efforts to implement conservation practices through the generation of environmental credits. Selling these credits on local, regional or national markets will make conservation practices more economically effective. Partners in Conservation Marketplace of Minnesota are as follows: Minnesota River Board, Agflex; Inc., American Farmland Trust; Greater Blue Earth River Basin Alliance; Kieser & Associates, LLC; Rural Advantage; Sauk River Watershed District and Stearns Soil and Water Conservation District.
Contact: 507-389-5491 - http://www.conservationmarketsofmn.org/
This public nonprofit organization based out of Lake Minnetonka has been leading the way in conserving, restoring, and protecting freshwater resources and their surrounding watersheds since 1968. The Freshwater Society recognizes the vital role of freshwater to all living things and the impending crisis in the quantity and quality of accessible freshwater. In addition, the organization dedicates its experience and resources to activities that lead to the understanding, protection, enhancement and restoration of freshwater resources. Finally, it invites the participation and support of individuals, associations, business and industry, institutions, educators, and government in these activities.
Contact: 952-471-9773 - http://freshwater.org/
Great River Greening
Starting in 1995, the goal of Great River Greening is to lead and inspire community-based restoration of natural areas and open spaces. Their restoration efforts help preserve natural areas, protect clean air and water, and increase urban residents’ access to natural areas and sustainable open space. Nearly 20,000 volunteers have been engaged in projects that conserve critical land habitat and affect water quality on both public and private lands. Great River Greening focuses work in locations and on activities that offer conservation impact, ecosystem services, and community benefits.
Contact: 651-665-9500 - http://www.greatrivergreening.org/
Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources
Made up of 17 members (5 Senators, 5 Representatives, 5 citizens appointed by the governor, 1 citizen appointed by the Senate, and 1 citizen appointed by the House), the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) makes funding recommendations to the legislature for special environment and natural resource projects, primarily from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund. These projects help maintain and enhance Minnesota’s environment and natural resources. Over $650 million has been appropriated since 1963 to fund more than 1,650 projects.
Contact: 651-296-2406 - http://www.lccmr.leg.mn/lccmr.htm
Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council
Established by the Minnesota Legislature, the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council has the responsibility to provide funding recommendations to the legislature from the Outdoor Heritage Fund, one of four funds created by the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment. This fund receives one-third of the money raised by the sales tax increase. The council ensures the recommendations are consistent with the Constitution and state law, along with taking in consideration (but not limited to) the Minnesota Conservation and Preservation Plan, projects that directly relate to the restoration, protection, and enhancement of wetlands, prairie, forests, and habitat for fish, game and wildlife, and that prevent forest fragmentation, encourage forest consolidation, and expand restored native prairie.
Contact: 651-297-7141 - http://www.lsohc.leg.mn/index.html
Established in 1967 by the Minnesota Legislature, the Metropolitan Council provides cost-effective transit and wastewater services, coordinates orderly and economic development, and assists communities as they plan for anticipated growth. The seven-county Minneapolis-St. Paul region of Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, Scott and Washington make up the Council’s jurisdiction. Transportation, the environment and community development are the three areas the Council focuses on as they provide bus and rail service, collect and treat wastewater, plan and help fund a system of regional parks and trails, and provide affordable housing opportunities for low income households.
Contact: 651-291-0904 - http://www.metrocouncil.org/
Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts
Representing the soil and water conservation districts (SWCDs) of Minnesota, the Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts (MASWCD), focuses on providing information on conservation issues, policy development, lobbying for conservation programs, coordination of training for SWCD personnel, promoting conservation education, holding an annual meeting and trade show. MASWCD exists to provide leadership and a common voice for Minnesota’s soil and water conservation districts and to maintain a positive, results-oriented relationship with rule making agencies, partners and legislators; expanding education opportunities for the districts so they can carry out effective conservation programs.
Contact: 651-690-9028 - http://www.maswcd.org/index.htm
Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR)
As the state’s soil and water conservation agency, the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) administers programs that prevent sediment and nutrients from entering the state’s lakes, rivers and streams; enhances fish and wildlife habitat; and protects wetlands. BWSR accomplishes this by working in partnership with local organizations and private landowners on core functions involving implementing the state’s soil and water conservation policy, comprehensive local water management, and the Wetland Conservation Act. The board serves as the state’s administrative agency for 90 soil and water conservation districts, 46 watershed districts, 23 metropolitan watershed management organizations, and 80 county water planners.
Contact: 800-627-3529 (St. Paul office) - http://www.bwsr.state.mn.us/
Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy
As one of the state’s leading environmental advocacy organizations, the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy (MCEA) has been protecting Minnesota’s water, air, land and people since 1974. MCEA works with government agencies, the Legislature, and the courts to set sound environmental policy, ensure good laws are enacted, and to enforce the law when needed. MCEA forms partnerships across all sectors – private and public, profit and nonprofit, political and academic – to make sure the changes in the environment over the next 35 years are for the better. Some of the issues that have involved MCEA include Atrazine, Climate Change, Coal Power Plants and much more.
For more information: 651-223-5969 - http://www.mncenter.org/Home/tabid/38/Default.aspx
Minnesota Deer Hunters Association
Originally conceived at the end of the 1960s after a brutal winter in northern Minnesota, the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association (MDHA) evolved into an organization covering the entire state to work for tomorrow’s wildlife and hunters today. Created by hunters for hunters, the MDHA supports 67 chapters with nearly 20,000 members throughout Minnesota. MDHA works under four main tenants – hunting, habitat, education and legislation. Some of their programs involve purchasing public hunting land, sponsoring youth educational opportunities and working on legislative issues.
Contact: 1-800-450-3337 - http://www.mndeerhunters.com/
Minnesota Department of Agriculture
For over a hundred years the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) in one form or another has been assisting farmers in the production of crops and livestock. The mission of MDA is to enhance Minnesota’s quality of life by ensuring the integrity of our food supply, the health of our environment, and the strength of our agricultural economy. MDA concentrates on three general areas of responsibilities – Protecting our food supply; Protecting our natural resources; and Cultivating our agricultural economy. One of the divisions (Pesticide & Fertilizer Management) deals with water quality issues involving educating urban landowners on how to reduce phosphorus runoff.
Contact: 800-967-2474 - http://www.mda.state.mn.us/
Minnesota Department of Health
In order to protect, maintain and improve the health of all Minnesotans, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) responds to disease outbreaks, promotes healthy choices, and ensures safe drinking water along with other public health priorities. MDH focuses on four specific areas: Preventing diseases, Promoting good health, Ensuring a safe and healthy environment and Protecting health care. The Department operates programs in disease prevention and control, health promotion, family and community health, environmental health, health care policy, emergency preparedness and regulation of health care providers and facilities.
Contact: 651-201-5000 (St. Paul office) - http://www.health.state.mn.us/index.html
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR)
The mission of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is to work with citizens to conserve and manage the state’s natural resources, to provide outdoor recreation opportunities, and to provide for commercial uses of natural resources in a way that creates a sustainable quality of life. The DNR fulfills their mission by protecting and managing natural lands, providing public access through state parks, wildlife management areas, and other facilities, protecting plant and animal populations, and overseeing the public or private use of state’s resources including forests, minerals and wildlife.
Contact: 888-646-6367 (St. Paul office) - http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/index.html
MN DNR – Adopt A River Program
The Adopt a River Program encourages Minnesota volunteers to “adopt” a section of a lake, river, wetland, ditch or ravine to ensure its long-term health through annual cleanups. As part of the Department of Natural Resources’ Trails and Waterways Division, the Adopt a River Program challenges people to become personally involved in the care of Minnesota’s natural resources and environment.
Contact: 651-259-5630 - http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/adoptriver/index.html
Minnesota Frog & Toad Calling Survey
Volunteers across Minnesota collect data on frog and toad species by identifying their unique calls or songs on specified 10-stop routes. Sponsored by the MN DNR, the results of this ongoing study provide information on where species are located throughout the state, and how their populations change in abundance and distribution.
Contact: 651-259-5120 - http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/volunteering/frogtoad_survey/index.html
Minnesota Geological Survey
Established in 1872 by the State of Minnesota as part of the University of Minnesota, the Minnesota Geological Survey (MGS) serves the people of Minnesota by providing systematic geosciences information to support stewardship of water, land, and mineral resources. Over the years the geological mapping and research at MGS has evolved with the progress of science and technology. MGS works closely with university, government, industry, and community partners to ensure they respond to the diverse needs of the Minnesota including survey projects, County Well Index and County Geologic Atlas.
Contact: 612-627-4780 - http://www.mngs.umn.edu/index.html
Minnesota Land Trust
To protect the natural and scenic heritage of our state through public and private partnerships is the mission of this nonprofit conservation organization. The Minnesota Land Trust got its start in 1991 and has been working with landowners and local communities to protect important lands within the broad critical landscapes that are most characteristic of the state’s natural and scenic beauty. To achieve its mission, they preserve and restore land and water systems by directly protecting land through conservation easements, land acquisition and effective land management. They also work with agencies, communities and organizations to achieve their conservation goals by assisting in resource identification and planning, developing conservation programs and delivering individual projects or transactions.
Contact: 651-647-9590 - http://www.mnland.org/
Minnesota Master Naturalists Program
The mission of the Minnesota Master Naturalist program is to promote awareness, understanding, and stewardship of the state’s natural environment. As a volunteer naturalist you will increase your knowledge of Minnesota’s natural and cultural history, develop your ability to convey this knowledge in a variety of educational activities and promote your ability to serve as a steward of the land.
Contact: 888-241-4532 - http://www.minnesotamasternaturalist.org/
Minnesota Native Plant Society
This nonprofit organization is dedicated to the conservation and appreciation of Minnesota’s native plants and plant communities through education and public awareness. The Minnesota Native Plant Society is exclusively organized and operated for education and scientific purposes. Field trips and monthly meetings are one way for the public to get involved in the society, along with volunteer opportunities though the MN DNR and other organizations. Members can also help out with one of the society committees – Conservation, Education and Outreach, Field Trip and the Symposium.
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA)
The mission of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) is to work with Minnesotans to protect, conserve and improve our environment and enhance our quality of life. Under this directive, MPCA handles a wide range of initiatives including monitoring environmental quality, offering technical and financial assistance, and enforcing environmental regulations. Partnerships with citizens, communities, businesses, all levels of government, environmental groups and educators helps MPCA prevent pollution and conserve resources.
Contact: 800-657-3864 (St. Paul Office) - http://www.pca.state.mn.us/
MPCA Volunteer Surface Monitoring Program
Both of these programs provides the tools to help volunteers monitor a favorite stream or lake to help determine its condition, understand water quality issues, and promote shared responsibility for the protection of Minnesota’s water resources. As a stream monitor you will measure a number of parameters including transparency, appearance, recreational suitability, precipitation and stream stage. Those interested in lakes will collect water transparency data by using a Secchi disk.
Contact: 651-757-2750 (Stream) and 651-296-6300 (Lake) - http://www.pca.state.mn.us/index.php/water/water-monitoring-and-reporting/volunteer-water-monitoring/volunteer-surface-water-monitoring.html?menuid=&redirect=1
MPCA Stormwater Program This state agency administers the requirements of the federal Clean Water Act along with the state's Disposal System requirements. MPCA strives to improve water quality through better management of stormwater. The program deals with three permits: Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Permit, Construction Stormwater Permit and Industrial Stormwater Permit. To sign up for "Stormwater" email updates go to the MPCA web site at: http://www.pca.state.mn.us/index.php/water/water-types-and-programs/stormwater/stormwater.html. The email alert is located on the upper lefthand side of the web page.
Minnesota Waterfowl Association
Dedicated to the preservation, creation and restoration of wildlife habitat in Minnesota, the Minnesota Waterfowl Association (MWA) has strived to benefit waterfowl and other wildlife since 1967. MWA works to create upland nesting cover and restoring wetland complexes where they no longer exist. Today, MWA is partnering with other state waterfowl organizations to combine education, legislation, and habitat goals into a united effort through the North America Waterfowl Federation. One of the major educational programs offered by MWA is the Woodie Camp, which addresses the lack of outdoor opportunities for young people.
Contact: 952-767-0324 - http://www.mnwaterfowl.com/
As a state-wide nonprofit organization, Minnesota Waters is dedicated to protecting and improving the health of the state’s lakes and rivers. This is done by engaging and connecting citizens, agencies and policymakers. Minnesota Waters provides the training, connections and support to empower citizens to take action to save the state’s diverse selection of waterbodies. Citizens can participate in many opportunities for interactive volunteer training to learning skills for hands-on water monitoring activities, create more effective community-based organizations, and make connections with like minded groups throughout the state to strengthen their efforts for protecting the state’s rivers and lakes.
Contact: 320-257-6630 - http://www.minnesotawaters.org/
The Parks & Trails Council of Minnesota
A grassroots organization, the Parks & Trails Council of Minnesota exists to acquire, protect and enhance critical lands for the public’s use and benefit. They have worked on promoting Sustainable, long-term statewide, long-term statewide land stewardship and conservation; Outdoor recreation for its educational, health and community benefits; Openness, inclusiveness, collaboration and volunteerism; Service as an independent, honest and forthright voice for parks and trails; and Decision informed by the best available science and data since 1954. The Parks and Trails Council of Minnesota has added more than 10,000 acres of land to key areas within the state’s vast network of parks and trails.
Contact: 800-944-0707 - http://www.parksandtrails.org/
Sierra Club North Star Chapter
As one of the Sierra Club’s longest operating chapters (since 1972), the North Star Chapter helps preserve and protect Minnesota’s environment through educational programs and political activism. This nonprofit organization strives to explore, enjoy and protect the wild places of the earth; Practice and promote the responsible use of the earth’s ecosystems and resources; Educate and enlist humanity to protect and restore the quality of the natural and human environment and Use all lawful means to carry out these objectives. The North Star Chapter works on a variety of issues – Clean Air & Renewable Energy, Forest & Wilderness Protection, Mining, Water & Wetlands, Land Use & Open Space, Transportation, Blue Green Alliance, Environmental Justice and Global Population.
Contact: 612-659-9124 - http://minnesota.sierraclub.org/
University of Minnesota Extension Service
Taking University research and education to the people of Minnesota is the goal of the University of Minnesota Extension Service. This 100-year-old-plus partnership between the University and federal, state and county governments provides scientific knowledge and expertise to the public. As one of the more than 100 land grant universities and colleges, the mission is to engage in teaching, research and extension. Land grant institutions “extend” their resources to address critical public issues through non-formal, non-credit education. The Extension Service focuses on the areas of environment, food and agriculture, communities, families and youth.
Contact: Marshall Office (507-337-2800) and Mankato Office (507-389-6714) - http://www.extension.umn.edu/