The University of Minnesota Extension Northwest Regional Sustainable Development Partnership (Northwest RSDP) contributes to a vibrant future for Northwest Minnesota. We partner with residents and organizations in the northwestern region of our state to support their ideas to improve the sustainability of their local communities. We support projects in the areas of agriculture and food systems, resilient communities, clean energy and natural resources. All projects we support are connected to University of Minnesota resources.
The Northwest RSDP serves Kittson, Roseau, Lake of the Woods, Marshall, Pennington, Red Lake, Clearwater, Beltrami, Polk, Norman, Mahnomen, Clay and Wilkin counties as well as these sovereign Native nations: Red Lake Nation and White Earth Nation. Ottertail and Becker counties are also included in food systems projects. Water-related projects include the area that drains to the Red River of the North.
The region’s natural history shows up in a diverse landscape shaped by ice and water and representing all four major biomes in Minnesota. Its cultural history traces the stories of indigenous people, voyageurs and fur traders, immigrants from northern Europe, and later from all parts of the world. The Red River of the North and its tributaries drain just over one fifth of Minnesota. The landscape includes remnants of native boreal forest, aspen parkland and maple, basswood forests, and tall grass prairie. The Red River Valley has a strong agricultural identity and brings to mind images of deep, rich soils and agricultural productivity.
The region is home to 215,000 people. Median age in the region is 41 compared to 37 in Minnesota. Agricultural production, manufacturing and healthcare are important economic sectors. Minnesota Compass tracks and analyzes trends that affect regional quality of life.
Keeping Lake of the Woods beautiful
Ice fishing brings many visitors to Lake of the Woods. The Keep it Clean Committee engaged UMN grad student Andrea Kidder to develop a communications plan to protect and preserve the beauty of the Lake of the Woods. As a next step, Lake of the Woods County worked with Linsday Krause to develop solid waste management policy options to address the record high traffic on the lake in winter 2020.
Greater MN Resilient Housing Project
Jacob Mans, architect and educator in the UMN College of Design leads the Greater Minnesota Resilient Housing Project. The project aims to co-create affordable housing by working with the communities who will live there. During the summer of 2020, four graduate students worked with Mans to scope the project. A design studio will advance the work in fall 2020.
Linda Kingery and Caryn Mohr from RSDP joined Eric Lonsdorf from Institute on the Environment in developing sustainability metrics to measure for meaning and impact. UMN graduate student Tyler Hurley explained the work to date and what changes have been made so far in a short video update.
Reducing energy costs in Bemidji
The Shine a Light on Science project at Headwaters Science Center (HSC) in Bemidji shows the impact of upgrading to LED lighting at their facility. HSC is projected to save $1,787 annually in energy costs with the upgrade. The quality of lighting has improved dramatically and makes for a better visitor experience. Otter Tail Power rebates and a Clean Energy Resource Teams Seed Grant helped make the project a reality.
Northwest RSDP welcomes two new board members.
Ken Mendez was born and raised in Crookston, Minnesota and he is proud to have attended the University of Minnesota Crookston. Ken was an older than average student when he graduated in the spring of 2010 with a degree in communication. Ken has been the head of the mailroom on the UMC campus since January of 2011. He has two adult children, both of whom also attended UMN Crookston. Ken is excited to be a contributing part of the Regional Sustainable Development Partnership.
Lyndon Johnson farms east of Hallock, at a 140 year old homestead. He earned his BA from Concordia in Moorhead and completed graduate work in Sweden. In addition to the farm, he has taught Swedish, continuing education courses and high school. He is an active musician. Lyndon lends his broad experience and perspective to the Northwest RSDP board.
Focusing on Indigenous Sovereignty at the University of Minnesota Crookston
Dennika Mays builds bridges between Indigenous Native and non-tribal communities in many ways, including through a fellowship co-hosted by RSDP and the Chancellor's Office at the University of Minnesota Crookston. She hopes her work will show the opportunities that can be found in connecting regional food, water and energy security with Indigenous Sovereignty frameworks. After conversations with several RSDP workgroups, Dennika is thrilled to see the strides rural MN is making toward increasing local food capacity and addressing climate change. Dennika is also an artist currently planning a new installation with the University Arts Committee. Her current work focuses on finding best practices that facilitate inclusion, representation, and build inter-community connections between Native, minority, and rural communities.
Project ideas are submitted to one or more of RSDP’s regional boards based on the location of the project. Northwest RSDP actively seeks ideas in January and July, and the board makes funding decisions in March, June and September. The RSDPs use fiscal year funding cycle from July 1 to June 30. Project ideas are reviewed based on the following shared criteria:
- Community members identify project goals in one or more of the four RSDP sustainable development focus areas.
- The project involves meaningful roles for both local community members and University of Minnesota faculty, staff and/or students.
- The project engages diverse populations and advances new community collaborations.
- The project supports environmental, social and economic sustainability for public purpose or benefit. Project learning or actions will be shared.
- Community partners provide leadership and support throughout the life of the project.
- Priority may be given to projects that leverage funds or other contributions.
Northwest RSDP board
- Ben Anderson, firstname.lastname@example.org - Moorhead, MN
- Bob Backman, email@example.com - Ogema, MN
- Sheila Capistran, firstname.lastname@example.org - Ada, MN
- Mike Hirst, email@example.com - Baudette, MN
- Lyndon Johnson, Lyndon_Johnson@yahoo.com - Hallock, MN
- Jacob Mans, firstname.lastname@example.org - Minneapolis, MN
- Ken Mendez, email@example.com - Crookston, MN
- Matt Simmons, firstname.lastname@example.org - Crookston, MN
- James Snyder, email@example.com - Crookston, MN
- Tim Williamson, firstname.lastname@example.org - Bemidji, MN
- Adam Woljer, email@example.com - Mahnomen, MN