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Mississippi River Network: Great Effort Toward a Difficult Goal

August 23, 2010Patrick NunnallyRivers, UncategorizedComments Off on Mississippi River Network: Great Effort Toward a Difficult Goal

For more than a decade, the McKnight Foundation’s
Environment Program
has been one of the most important sources of support for
many organizations working to protect and sustain the Mississippi River and the
life it contains and enriches, both human and nonhuman.


Five years ago, in 2005, the Foundation convened some three
dozen of its grantee organizations to consider how they might fruitfully
collaborate to make “the whole as greater than the sum of the parts.”  What could be done, the Foundation asked, to
expand the message and the reach of their groups’ work beyond the people
already being reached?


The result was the development of the Mississippi River
(MRN), a consortium of 31 organizations from throughout the length of
the Mississippi River valley and in other locations across the country, who
have agreed on shared goals and a vision for the future of the
Mississippi.  The goals, as listed on the
MRN web site are:

Land Goal:  We will restore, protect and reconnect
environmentally sensitive lands and will use working lands sustainably on a
continental scale.

Water Goal:  We will reduce water pollution, restore the river as
habitat, and improve natural processes and features that can reduce flood

People Goal:  We will urge the people of the Mississippi River
Watershed and the nation to treat the Mississippi as a national treasure to be
protected, restored, enjoyed and sustainably developed, and as a resource that
enriches both the economy and the quality of life.

An immediate point to make about these goals is their
integration:  only by thinking about how
people, land, and water work together will we be able to reverse the decades of
degradation that the Mississippi has suffered. 
And only by thinking of people, land, and water as integrated systems
will we be able to achieve work at the scale that is needed to affect the third
largest watershed in the world, the Mississippi River watershed.


A caveat is in order: 
The Mississippi River Network consists only of private sector nonprofit
organizations, and does not include every one of those groups that is working
on Mississippi River sustainability. 
There are lots of reasons, of course, why some groups are not included,
and it is not my place to make an argument for more inclusion or anything of
that nature.  Plus the public agencies at
the federal, state, and local level are not represented, although every one of
the MRN organizations engages extensively with public agencies.  Those agencies in turn are working together to address issues such as hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico.


What is most significant, I think, is that this is a
concerted effort to coordinate some of the messages and activities of many of
the most dedicated environmental stewards working on Mississippi River
issues.  Coordination is very difficult,
as anyone who has tried it knows.  The
efforts of the Biodiversity Project staff who are working to staff the MRN and
to provide assistance through tool kits of media materials and guidance about
the diverse audiences that can be reached to influence the future of the
Mississippi are to be commended.


One example of the public engagement that the MRN is
developing on behalf of its members is the 1 Mississippi Photo Contest.  Everyone has their favorite place on the
Mississippi River and all of us have taken photographs to capture the essence
of that place.  Go to the contest web
site and cast your vote–voting ends next week!




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