Working as the Southeast Metro Regional Manager with Conservation Minnesota, I’ve noticed that many communities in the metro area have citizen commissions that advise their city councils on everything from greenspace to renewable energy and energy efficiency. These commissions go by many names like Environment and Energy Advisory Commission or Sustainability Commission but they all work to strengthen relationships between their community and local government when it comes to deciding on conservation related activities. These commissions can give residents a stronger voice on local conservation and natural resource issues, and they are not unlike citizen commissions you will find in cities throughout Minnesota that advise their city councils on planning and development or parks and recreation. Having one of these commissions can also help a community save money by increasing energy savings, enhancing greenspace to attract young families, or avoiding costly future impacts by helping with long-term sustainable planning.
Recently our West Metro Regional Manager, John Anderson, helped residents start the Bloomington Sustainability Commission. They began this process by hosting meetings with interested residents and stakeholders, formed work plans, created a mission, and engaged a variety of partners to help establish a sustainability task force. After a year, the City Council voted to approve turning the task force into a permanent commission in 2016. Some of their biggest accomplishments in the short time they’ve been active include creating their 2017 Work Plan and helping to get Bloomington enrolled in the Minnesota GreenStep Cities program. Moving forward, they will help guide the GreenStep Cities process and concentrate on four focus areas that include energy, water, greenspace, and solid waste.
It’s been great to discover that Conservation Minnesota can play an important role in helping to establish these commissions in communities where we work. We can provide outreach, resources, facilitate meetings, and connect people to experts. I’m currently working with our members in Apple Valley who want to start a commission of their own. Residents are getting excited and we are gaining traction. Check out this great article published on October 12th about these efforts in the Sun This Week. If you live in Apple Valley or are interested in learning more about starting an advisory commission in your community, you’re welcome to join us for our upcoming panel event. Stop by to learn what these commissions do, how they started, and if it’s something that can work for your city. This event will feature the Bloomington Sustainability Commission Chair Tim Sandry, Eden Prairie Conservation Commission Chair Lori Tritz, and former Rosemount Environment and Sustainability Task Force Council Liaison Vanessa Demuth.
If you have any questions about starting a commission or would like to contact me about other conservation related issues, please don’t be a stranger! Avery@conservationminnesota.org and (612) 767-1572.