Minnesota Conservation Leadership Awards for 2015 Announced

The Trust for Public Land announced the winners of its 7th annual Conservation Leadership Awards, which recognize outstanding support for the conservation of Minnesota’s special places, from city parks to wilderness areas.

“These awards recognize leaders who do the hard work of keeping Minnesota special,” said Susan Schmidt, The Trust for Public Land’s Minnesota state director. “Conservation leaders sometimes don’t always get the recognition they deserve, and that’s why we created these annual awards.”

The awards have been in existence since 2009. The 2015 awards were announced at an event yesterday at the Science Museum of Minnesota in St. Paul.

The Trust for Public Land’s 2015 Conservation Leadership Award winners are (in alphabetical order):

BILL BECKER. Bill Becker, outgoing Executive Director of the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council (LSOHC), was recognized for shepherding initiatives to protect and improve habitat in Minnesota, over $600 million in outdoor heritage (Legacy Amendment) funds in the first five years. Earlier in his career, Bill represented the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) at the Minnesota Legislature, and served as the DNR representative working with the Legislative-Citizens Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR).

FROGTOWN FARM BOARD OF DIRECTORS. The Frogtown Farm Board of Directors was recognized for creating and implementing the vision for a new city park with a 5.5 acre urban farm demonstration project as one component in the heart of the Frogtown neighborhood of Saint Paul. The City of Saint Paul, Frogtown Farm and The Trust for Public Land will be hosting a grand opening event for the park in the fall of 2015, and farm activity is projected to begin in spring 2016. Soyini Guyton, Frogtown Farm Board Chair, received the award on behalf of Frogtown Farm, a community-based organization dedicated to social equity, justice and interconnectedness.

PHYLLIS KAHN. Phyllis Kahn, a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives representing Minneapolis, was recognized for her long-standing leadership to invest in parks, trails, and natural areas. Representative Kahn has worked tirelessly over the years to enact a long list of important environmental laws to promote clean indoor air, nuclear safety, radioactive waste disposal, field tests of genetically modified crops and infectious waste disposal. Representative Kahn serves on the House Legacy Funding Committee as well as other key House Committees.

CRAIG KOESTER. Craig Koester, Academic Dean at Luther Seminary in Saint Paul and a Lutheran pastor, was recognized for his deep involvement in the preservation and restoration of his family’s large tract of prairie and oak savanna in eastern Rice County. Craig worked with The Trust for Public Land ,the Cannon River Watershed Partnership and many, many friends and family members to create the Prairie Creek Wildlife Management Area and the Friends of Prairie Creek Wildlife Management Area, an organization dedicated to restoring this area for future generations to enjoy.

CARRIE RUUD. Carrie Rudd, a member of the Minnesota Senate representing Aitkin and Crow Wing counties, was recognized for promoting conservation statewide and her commitment in particular to the protection of 3 miles of shoreline and 2000 acres of land now known as Mississippi River Northwoods just northeast of Brained. Senator Ruud serves on the Senate Environment, Economic Development and Agriculture Committee, the Legislative Water Commission, and The Great Lakes Commission among other Senate Committees.

RUSS STARK. Russ Stark, a member of the St. Paul City Council representing Ward 4 in the northwest part of the city, was recognized for his work in maximizing the Green Line Light Rail Transit benefit to the region. As a city councilmember, and as a past nonprofit leader, Russ has worked tirelessly to promote better transportation and land use options for neighborhoods bordering University Avenue in Saint Paul and Minneapolis. Russ was a key participant in The Trust for Public Land – led collaborative “Greening the Green Line.

“These individuals, and those who support them, are ensuring that Minnesotans continue to enjoy beautiful places to gather, play, work, hunt, fish and enjoy nature,” said Schmidt. “Minnesota is so fortunate to have such amazing conservation leaders.”

Funding for the land protection projects referenced above was provided by several sources, including the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund, as recommended by the Legislative Citizens Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR), and the Outdoor Heritage Fund, as recommend by the Lessard Sams Outdoor Heritage Council (LSOHC).