Lucy, around age 12, on a family canoe trip in northern MN

Summer in the Field: Interning at Conservation Minnesota

by Lucy McCurdy,
Summer Intern 2019

At eight years old, on my first canoe camping trip through the Boundary Waters, I tipped my little brother in the water when he made the mistake of standing up in our canoe mid-lake. He screamed, I laughed, and just like that, I was hooked on both family camping and paddling across the wilderness.

Ely, Minnesota is a long way away from Washington, DC, where I grew up, but the weeks each summer I spent camping in Northern Minnesota changed my understanding of the value of the Great Outdoors. Far away from my life in the city, I learned that building fires, fine-tuning a loon call, and pointing gleefully to the leech stuck on my sister could be a much more entertaining way to spend an afternoon than sitting on my couch glued to Disney Channel.

When I was looking for a summer internship related to my political science major, I was thrilled to get the opportunity to return to the Twin Cities and work for the Field Team hereat Conservation Minnesota (CM). As an intern, I’ve shadowed CM’s regional managers as they advocate for and support community action on a diverse range of issues in the state. No one day in the office is the same as Field Team members attend events, contact locally-elected officials, and connect people involved in conservation efforts with the resources they need to get things done.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been inspired by the work of regular Minnesotans dedicated to protecting the quality of their land, air, and water. At a meeting with East Metro Regional Manager Keely Cervantes in White Bear Lake, I saw how a group of concerned citizens are pressing for answers about the mismanagement of the toxic chemical TCE in their community. As residents shared stories and impressively detailed research reports, media, elected officials, and a large group of neighbors took note.

Later that same week, at the Lake Cornelia Vegetative Buffer Design Open House with West Metro Regional Manager John Anderson, I saw how government agencies can effectively share conservation plans with impacted community members through local outreach events. Native plantings on the shores of Lake Cornelia will soon begin improving water quality for Edina residents.

In June, at a meeting of Solar Minnesota with Southeast Metro Regional Manager Avery Hildebrand, I saw clean energy businesses, utility company representatives, community members, and local nonprofits come together to discuss solar development in the state. Innovations ranging from electric trucks to community solar gardens are making it easier for both industry players and regular citizens to transition to clean energy.

Local action is making a difference in protecting the natural places and resources that make Minnesota so special. From mining threats in the Boundary Waters to chemical pollutants in White Bear Lake, the conservation issues we tackle here at CM impact all Minnesotans. I am so excited to continue working alongside the Field Team thisJuly, but my time in the Twin Cities is limited! By August, I’ll be packing my bags, hitting the road, and heading out for another week of canoe camping up north, newly grateful for the wilderness and the people that make it all possible.