Promoting grassroots conservation in the Upper Midwest

Enbridge's $3-million Ecofootprint Grant Program to fund local environmental initiatives

For half a century, Minnesota’s Resource Conservation and Development Councils have stood the test of time – protecting and conserving the beauty of the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

From water-quality workshops to grazing seminars, from interpretive centers to wetland protection programs, these councils help develop economic, natural, and social resources in ways that improve the economy, the environment, and quality of life.

“Our aim is to achieve natural resource conservation, and impact community and rural development, one project at a time,” says John Beckwith, executive director of the Minnesota Association of Resource Conservation and Development Councils, Inc. (MARC&D)

“We’ve been involved with workshops focusing on the water quality of Lake Superior and its ecosystem. We’ve helped to convince farmers to perform agricultural drainage in a more environmentally friendly way,” he adds. “One of our partner projects found a market for small-diameter woody biomass, and they harvested this brush in a pattern that improved habitat for sharp-tailed grouse – so it had an outcome that was beneficial to wildlife at the same time.

“The common thread among all of these projects is that they’re locally driven,” says Beckwith. “They’re projects that come to us from local people, at the grassroots – and that’s exactly why we were so excited about this Ecofootprint Grant Program with Enbridge.”

Launched this week, Enbridge’s three-year, $3-million Ecofootprint Grant Program will provide funding to communities in Minnesota, North Dakota, and Wisconsin along the Sandpiper Pipeline and Line 3 Replacement project routes.

The announcement earned regional media coverage from the likes of NBC television affiliate KBJR-TV, based in the Twin Ports of Superior, Wis., and Duluth, Minn., and the Bemidji, Minn., Pioneer.

“We recognize that our construction activities have temporary impacts along our pipeline rights-of-way,” says Lee Monthei, Enbridge’s Vice President of Major Project Execution. “This new grant program will create lasting improvement in these communities, while reducing impacts along the Sandpiper Pipeline and Line 3 Replacement project routes.”

The Ecofootprint Grant Program will be administered in partnership with MARC&D, and will provide up to $1 million in annual funding for three years. The new grant program will look to advance locally based environmental priorities, including:

  • Fostering environmental education and stewardship;
  • Advancing research and science related to threatened and endangered species, and/or declining populations;
  • Improving and/or protecting surface water and/or groundwater quality in watersheds crossed by projects; and
  • Focusing on environmental areas or issues that are most relevant to local communities.

“We want to encourage environmental projects providing benefits that are specific, measurable, achievable, reasonable, and time-bound,” says Paul Meneghini, a Senior Environment Manager with Enbridge’s Major Projects division. “We want to focus on projects that involve water protection, habitat enhancement, or restoration of environmental resources.”

Applicants eligible for Ecofootprint grants include non-profit 501(c)(3) organizations, state government agencies, local governments, Native American tribes, and post-secondary academic institutions.

“We’re fired up about Ecofootprint,” says Beckwith. “This grant program addresses priorities of local communities, and that’s exactly what we do. That was a key part of our interest in partnering with Enbridge.”