Environmental Congress

2019 Minnesota Environmental Congress 

Watch the Plenary

Watch the Leadership Forum

Environmental Congress Program (pdf)


Plenary Presentation - Climate Change in Minnesota (Kate A. Brauman, Ph.D)

Breakout Session - Pathways to Decarbonizing Transportation

Breakout Session - Transportation Resilience

Breakout Session - Adapting to Climate Change

Breakout Session - Adapting to Climate Change (1854 Treaty Authority)

Breakout Session - Excessive Precipitation

Breakout Session - Food, Fiber, and Fuel

Breakout Session - Climate Change and Water Resources Interactions

Breakout Session - Climate Change and Biodiversity: Building Resiliency of Our Lands and Wildlife

Breakout Session - Climate Change and Biodiversity: Building Resiliency of Our Lands and Wildlife (Key Strategies)

Breakout Session - Climate Change and Biodiversity: Building Resiliency of Our Lands and Wildlife (Why and How?)

Open Space Dialogue Notes


When: Tuesday, December 3, 2019 |  (Registration at 8:00) -- 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (Agenda)

Where: Centennial Student Union | Minnesota State University – Mankato | 620 South Road W, Mankato, MN 56001

CARPOOL: Join or offer a carpool to the Environmental Congress with https://www.groupcarpool.com/t/7wv0eh 

Free Parking in Visitor Parking Lot 4, located off of Ellis Avenue and South Road W, on campus. This parking lot is located directly opposite of the main entrance to the Centennial Student Union. MNSU - Mankato Campus Map

Participation in this carpool forum is completely optional. Safety, communication, and other details about your transportation to the event are between you and your carpool. Environmental Congress event planners will not be facilitating carpool arrangements beyond providing this link


Intense flooding, higher temperatures, and more extreme storms – Minnesotans are already feeling the effects of our changing climate. As leading climate scientists urge swift and decisive action to safeguard our future, Minnesotans are engaging at all levels to advance leadership on climate change. Join us at the Environmental Congress to learn about innovative work happening across the state and explore ways to apply solutions in your community.

This free, daylong conference will include sessions on community preparedness, innovative practices in agriculture, transitioning to a low-carbon transportation system, protecting our water resources, and more. Participants will lead discussion groups in the afternoon and contribute ideas on how we can work together in new, equitable, and creative ways to take meaningful action. The Congress is a space to harness the energy and hopes of fellow Minnesotans and cooperatively build a healthy future for our communities, wildlife, lands, and waters.

Goals of the Environmental Congress:

* Explore leading science on climate change and what it means for Minnesotans

* Advance mutual learning among community members, state and local leaders, and a broad range of professionals on pressing climate policy issues

* Highlight innovative work taking place across Minnesota

* Create opportunities for dialogue and shared understanding

* Inspire meaningful climate action at the individual, community, and local and state government levels

Congress Agenda:

8:00 am - 9:00 am: Registration and Refreshments

8:30 am - 9:00 am Musical Prelude: Fermata Sol a capella

9:00 am - 10:00 am: Plenary

10:10 am - 10:55 am: Breakout Sessions (Session Topics Listed Below)

11:05 am - 11:50 am: Breakout Sessions (Session Topics Listed Below)

12:00 pm - 1:00 pm: Lunch (included)

1:00 pm - 1:45 pm: Governor Tim Walz & Cabinet Members Leadership Forum

1:55 pm - 2:40 pm: Open Space Dialogue Introduction

2:45 pm - 3:45 pm: Open Space Dialogues

3:50 pm - 4:30 pm: Open Space Dialogue Closing

4:30 pm - 5:30 pm: Networking Hour

Session Topics:

Climate justice, energy, and equity Room 245
This session will create space for conversation on removing structural inequities and bringing in culturally specific community solutions and needs while developing new policies, programs, and resources related to energy efficiency, clean energy, and other climate-related issues.

  • Briana Baker, Weatherization Auditor, Minnesota Valley Action Council
  • Carmen Carruthers, Outreach Director, Citizens Utility Board of Minnesota
  • Ben Passer, Director of Energy Access and Equity; Janiece Watts, Policy Associate for Energy Access and Equity, Fresh Energy
  • Ansha Zaman, Policy Coordinator, Center for Earth Energy and Democracy

The future of Minnesota’s clean water in a changing climate Room 253-255
How will Minnesota’s changing climate affect our freshwater? What can we do to protect water quality and quantity for future generations? This session will present new research on climate change and its water related impacts, including flooding, water recreation, agriculture, and infrastructure impacts. We will hear how these changes are playing out in a neighborhood in the Le Sueur River watershed and reflect on our own experiences. The session will end with an invitation to participate in a shaping the 2020 State Water Plan, which will focus on climate change and sustainable water management.


  • Dr. Mae Davenport, Director, Center for Changing Landscapes, University of Minnesota
  • Ryan Noe, Senior Scientist, Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota
  • Don and Becky Waskosky, Steering Committee, Le Sueur River Watershed Network
  • Phil Belfiori, Water Policy Analyst, Minnesota Environmental Quality Board

Food, fiber, and fuel: Providing society’s needs while addressing climate change Ostrander Auditorium
What strategies are currently being employed and what new approaches are on the horizon that address climate change through innovative practices in food, biofuel, and agricultural production systems? This moderated panel of practitioners and experts will explore ways to meet the challenges of climate change while still providing for society’s need of food, fiber, and fuel.


  • Allen Sommerfeld, Senior Communications Officer, Minnesota Department of Agriculture
  • Kathryn Draeger, Statewide Director, Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships
  • Kristin Weeks Duncanson, Owner/Partner, Highland Family Farms
  • Matthew Wohlman, Sr. Director of State and Industry Affairs, Land O’Lakes Inc.
  • Tom Cotter, Farmer, Cotter Family Farm

Adapting to climate change: Innovative strategies from around Minnesota Room 201
Minnesota communities are already feeling the effects of climate change, with some of the most dramatic impacts from extreme precipitation. How are local, state and Tribal agencies developing adaptation strategies to address threats to infrastructure, drinking water, and culturally important resources? What are lessons learned in the process? This session will explore recent efforts to adapt to climate change and will highlight diverse perspectives and approaches. Presenters will share strategies and tools that can aid local governments and communities dealing with the impacts of climate change. The presentations will set the stage for further conversation in the afternoon about how to take meaningful action towards resiliency.


  • Kristin Raab, MN Climate & Health Program Director, Minnesota Department of Health
  • Alison Zelms, Deputy City Manager, City of Mankato
  • Jeffrey Meek, Sustainability Coordinator, Minnesota Department of Transportation
  • Hilarie Sorensen, Climate Specialist, 1854 Treaty Authority

Pathways to decarbonizing transportation Room 202
Minnesota’s largest source of greenhouse gases is transportation. How can our State move towards a low-carbon transportation future? The Pathways to Decarbonizing Transportation project began a conversation about reducing greenhouse gases in transportation. This session will include a brief overview of the key Pathways components: modeling, public input, and proposed actions and recommendations. Participants will learn about the new Clean Cars Minnesota rulemaking process and opportunities for public input. They will also hear from panelists about advancing low-carbon transportation options.


  • Joe Smentek, Executive Director, Minnesota Soybean Growers Association
  • Mary Morse Marti, Executive Director, Move Minneapolis
  • Margaret Cherne-Hendrick, Beneficial Electrification Specialist, Fresh Energy
  • Jeffrey Hasse, Leader, Member Technology & Innovation, Great River Energy
  • Siri Simons, Sustainability Coordinator, Minnesota Department of Transportation

Climate change and biodiversity: Building resiliency of our lands and wildlife Room 204
This session will focus on how to build biological diversity and resiliency in Minnesota in the face of climate change by focusing on wildlife and plant communities. Learn about how climate change is affecting forests, deer, and insects and how it increases risks from fire and invasive species. Panelists will discuss strategies for helping wildlife in the face of climate change as well as resources and toolkits available to help increase biodiversity in the places you live, work, and play.


  • Meredith Cornett, PhD, Director of Conservation Science, The Nature Conservancy in MN/ND/SD
  • Lee E. Frelich, Director, University of Minnesota Center for Forest Ecology; Fellow, Institute on the Environment
  • Dan Shaw, Senior Ecologist/Vegetation Specialist, Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources
  • Bridget Rathsack, Program Manager, Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition, Environmental Initiative
  • Kristy Zajac, Conservation Specialist, Redwood Soil and Water Conservation District

How to talk climate by developing yourpersonal climate story Rooms 203 and 238
A group of emerging environmental leaders invite you to explore your personal climate story through an immersive storytelling workshop, based on Climate Generation’s transformative model. Participants will be guided through a series of reflection and discussion activities to uncover their personal connections to the environment. While knowing the facts behind global warming is important, connecting these facts to your own life is a powerful tool for self-reflection and encouraging others to take action.
**Note: in order to give participants a chance to reflect deeply on their climate change connection, this session will be 90 minutes long.

Facilitators from the Emerging Environmental Leaders Initiative

  • Annie Pottorff, Yin Liu, Sydney Bauer, Logan Rieder, Miriam Eide


  • Sarah Goodspeed, Youth and Policy Manager, Climate Generation: A Will Steger Legacy