By: Matthew Young, MAEE Board Member
Did you know that Minnesota had the only divided state legislative assembly in the United States this past 2019 legislative session, ending on May 25th? Yet, even with a Democratic Farmer-Laborer (DFL) majority in the State House of Representatives and a Republican majority in the State Senate, Minnesota state legislators managed to prioritize environmental education funding and other supports for Minnesota’s environmental educators, students, and natural resources!
In particular, thanks to leadership from DFL State Representatives Jamie Becker-Finn (District 42B) and Rick Hansen (District 52A), alongside DFL State Senator Foung Hawj (District 67), the No Child Left Inside legislation will mandate the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to create a funding program which would disburse targeted grants. Such grants will go towards creating curricula and other programming for formal & informal environmental educators, public schools, environmental learning centers, and environmental nonprofit organizations. As long as a public entity or private nonprofit organization meets certain criteria, including programs which can maximize student attendance among lower-income communities and communities of color as well as provide matching funding to select grants, grants run by the DNR will be duly awarded to qualifying recipients. According to a recent email from Rep. Becker-Finn to MAEE, No Child Left Inside will be “funded with one-time funds at $1.2 million. Of that amount, $500,000 will be focused on the language contained in House File 133; $500,000 will go towards archery, firearm safety, and angling in high schools; and $200,000 is targeted for high school fishing leagues.” Exciting news, right?! Furthermore, back on June 25th, MAEE Advocacy Coordinator Matthew Young met with DFL State Senator John Marty (District 66), DFL State Representative Alice Hausman (District 66A), and DFL State Representative John Lesch (66B) ahead of their Post-2019 Legislative Session Town Hall in Saint Paul. Matthew thanked each of them for voting in support of No Child Left Inside and each of these public servants expressed a desire to meet with MAEE members into the future regarding how to cultivate a stronger environmental education infrastructure across Minnesota.
As for federal-level efforts towards funding environmental education, appropriations discussions and debates remain ongoing in both the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate. Arguably, two of the more pivotal means of funding environmental education nationwide involve the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Environmental Learning Program and the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) Project Bay Watershed Education and Training (B-WET). Gratefully, Minnesota 4th District DFL Congresswoman Betty McCollum sits as the Chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior Environment & Related Agencies, a leadership position which can leverage more funding support for EPA and NOAA funding in Minnesota and nationwide. Alongside being in correspondence with Representative McCollum and her staff, our MAEE Advocacy Team continues to correspond with the staff of U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith. Specifically, we look forward to their signing onto “Dear Colleague” letters and demonstrating leadership on supporting future environmental education & environmental justice appropriations among other items of legislation.
Looking ahead to the remainder of 2019 Congressional calendar and the 2020 Minnesota legislative & Congressional calendars, we remain grateful to our statewide group of Regional Advocates for their public service from Warroad to Winona, from Pipestone to Grand Portage and points in between. Indeed, for many of our Board of Directors who live in the Twin Cities geographic region, we cannot thank enough our Regional Advocates for the invaluable connections and services which they provide across Greater Minnesota to provide a pathway for environmental education dialogue between constituents and our elected officials. Thus, we will be periodically contacting our Regional Advocates during the upcoming months to assess recent conversations and meetings which they have had with state and federal elected officials alike. Stay tuned as MAEE plans out for its 2nd Annual Environmental Education Advocacy Day this upcoming February 2020 at the Minnesota Capitol in Saint Paul! If you would like to be added to our Regional Advocates contact list, feel free to email Matthew Young at email@example.com and/or Jane Estes at firstname.lastname@example.org. We would also encourage all of our Regional Advocates alongside their friends, colleagues, and fellow community members to be in touch with the offices of Governor Tim Walz, Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, and U.S. Senator Tina Smith on affirming their ongoing support of environmental education funding and initiatives given their influential statewide positions.
If you are not sure as to whom your state representative, state senator, or Congressional representative would be for your district, feel free to visit the Minnesota Legislator Geographic Information Services website. Once you type in your zip code and learn who your elected officials are, feel free message us when you feel ready to message your elected official. We are more than ready and willing to help you all out with how to share your passion for environmental education and for protecting Minnesota’s natural resources & ecological integrity alongside advocating for key legislation which can strengthen our state’s and country’s environmental and educational futures for our children, grandchildren, and generations thereafter!
We look forward to hearing from you, fellow Minnesotans!