This year’s Metro Summit for Lake and river groups was another great success with a capacity crowd learning and networking at the Eisenhower Community Center in Hopkins.
The key note session took a look at the Legacy amendment and how the funds created by that legislation are accessed and used. Steve Woods, now a former assistant director for the Board of Soil and Water Resources, led the session by introducing himself as the new Executive Director for the Freshwater Society. Steve utilized his extensive experience at BWSR to talk about the ins and outs of the Legacy funds including the importance of good relationships with local government as a key to accessing the resources.
Following Steve’s overview was a panel discussion that looked at the process of applying for Legacy funds. Representatives on the panel included Craig Dawson of the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District, Rich Brasch of the Three Rivers Park District and Joe Shneider from the MN Coalition of Lake Associations. The conversation focused on finding funding for aquatic invasive species programs, an initiative that has not yet been successful.
Following a networking dinner John Tuma, a lobbyist with the non-profit group Conservation Minnesota, used his background as a legislator and attorney to talk about having a policy impact as citizens. Some of his useful advice to attendees included:
- Don’t expect success overnight; any significant change in legislative policy or appropriations is likely to take time.
- Be scrupulously honest in your dealings with policy-makers and build relationships, both with legislators and with local officials whose opinions the legislators trust. Those long-term relationships are more important and more likely to product results than virtuoso arguments and voluminous recitations of facts.
- Develop “champions” of your cause, legislators who strongly support what you are doing and are willing to devote extraordinary time and energy to it. John cited Representative Jean Wagenius of Minneapolis as a legislator who champions groundwater protection.
- Build coalitions with individuals and groups that share your priorities. He recommended lakeshore owners form alliances with angler groups to win legislative support for AIS-control measures.