A recent report commissioned by the Northwest Minnesota Foundation cites "Quality of Place" as a key to the region's ability to develop industry and promote other avenues of economic development. The amenities, lifestyle offerings and environmental quality of the region depends largely on the policies and practices that natural resources professionals use in caring for those natural resources. Supporting and growing this "knowledge cluster" is a necessary step in addressing the Number One important element identified in the report: "The natural amenities, including clear air and water, open spaces, forests, lakes, public lands, trail systems, outdoor events and opportunities for outdoor recreation, hunting and wildlife observation."
The NRC is a group of regional professionals who work within various fields of natural resources. They include representatives from large industries (Potlach, Northwoods Panelboard), private business (loggers, farmers), government agencies (DNR, Chippewa National Forest, Red Lake and Leech Lake), and educators (BSU). Additional stakeholders include utilities cooperatives, wildlife and sports associations, health and recreational organizations, policy makers and elected officials and more.
Together these natural resources professionals have identified this "knowledge cluster" as having many common interests including a critical need to share information and access training on the important issues facing the environment in northwest Minnesota.
Monthly workshops are conducted that are available free of charge to any person working with natural resources. Here, they have access to cutting edge, scientific information that typically requires a trip to Cloquet, Duluth or the Twin Cities along with the accompanying travel and per diem costs. In addition, they receive training that is regionally specific to the issues of northwest Minnesota.
Additionally, full-day educational workshops have been added to the offerings from the NRC. "Peatlands of Northern Minnesota: Economy and Ecology" was a huge success offering speakers from a variety of sources including the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, University of Minnesota, Bemidji State University, and US Forest Service. The workshop also attracted participants from all directions including Winnepeg, Duluth / Superior area, Crookston, Red Lake peatlands area and the Twin Cities.
Student involvement is anticipated to grow as both undergraduate and graduate students at BSU and neighboring institutions seek out additional environmental education opportunities. BSU's Environmental, Earth and Space Studies program and other programs within the College of Social and Natural Sciences will work to ensure student to participation.
Partner agencies serve as advisors to assist in developing NRC programs and Optivation hosts the sessions and provides project management support. Currently, BSU providing this service to help foster this knowledge cluster as part of its mission. But ongoing support will require funding. In addition, to achieve the long term goals of the NRC, funds are needed to further develop the implementation plan.
The goal of the NRC is to support the local natural resources knowledge base by providing accessible, low cost continuing education programs that are scholarly, scientific and regionally-specific.