Minnesota is known as the “Land of 10,000” lakes. The state actually contains 11,842 lakes over ten acres in size and 6,564 natural rivers and streams plus millions of acres of wetlands and 58 state forests (according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources). Today’s organization is on a mission to ensure that Minnesota’s natural resources are preserved.
Great River Greening began as the Greening the Great River Park project of the Saint Paul Foundation in 1995. This civic project to “green” the Saint Paul Mississippi River Valley worked to reverse decades of neglect and apathy. The planting project involved 10,000 volunteers over five years and received national awards. This project sowed the seeds for a larger idea to spread this work across the entire state. In 1999, Great River Greening was founded to share the ecological expertise with other Minnesota communities. Great River Greening focuses on stewardship: the careful and responsible management of natural heritage which has been entrusted to our care.
Great River Greening’s mission is to lead and inspire community-based restoration of prairies, forests, and freshwaters. They are based in Saint Paul, Minnesota but they have restoration sites located throughout the state. They focus their work in locations and on activities that offer the most conservation impact, ecosystem services, and community benefits. They have a professional scientific staff that has built an expertise for on-the-ground land management that can be seen and measured. The organization continues to serve as a model for communities throughout the Midwest United States and is even featured in the book Nature Friendly Communities by Chris Duerksen and Cara Snyder.
In 2011, 2,070 volunteers including 626 youth, removed 511 acres of invasive species, planted 28,400 trees and shrubs and installed 4,700 flowering plants and grasses. Greening’s Science Area Teen Network also passed a milestone in 2011 by engaging 500 at-risk and minority teens since it began. In addition to hands on restoration work and class activities, these youth spoke with community mentors in the field of science whose background reflected their own. These mentors helped the youth understand and see how leadership skills developed as teens can be used in future careers. You can visit the teen area of the organization’s website to learn more about environmental topics and careers.
How can you help?
- Restorations occur in the spring and fall. You can find upcoming restoration projects on their website. Groups and individuals of all ages can participate in the restoration projects.
- Volunteer leaders are also needed to direct efforts at restoration events. You can learn about the leader program here.
- The organization can also customize restoration events for corporate groups.
- You can also make a monetary donation at GiveMN.org.
- You can share the link to the teen area of the organization’s site with teens who would like to learn more about environmental careers.
- You can also visit their website for a wide variety of resources and recommended reading including sustainable landscaping, training, and education.