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Our Mission

To preserve and protect the Natural Resources of the Minnesota River Watershed through partnerships with Units of Government, other Not-for Profit Organizations.

Our Story

Friends of the Minnesota Valley works within the Minnesota River Watershed to procure sound, science-based decisions that promote a healthy and sustainable River and Refuge. Our programs are designed to build and engage a volunteer grassroots citizen network to advocate for local decisions that are compatible with our goal of achieving a healthy and sustainable Refuge and River. We recognize the interconnectedness of a healthy Minnesota River and a healthy Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge and we work with a variety of public and private partners throughout the watershed to help us achieve this goal. Our work focuses primarily within the Minnesota River Watershed and its six sub-watersheds. We recognize the interconnectedness of our work in the Minnesota River Watershed and the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge and work to integrate our goals and activities in these two areas. To learn more about the great work our organization has accomplished over the years on behalf of the Minnesota River Valley keep reading below! 


The History of the Friends

During the late 1960s, a group of citizens began advocating for creation of a National Wildlife Refuge in the lower Minnesota Valley through an  informal group known as the Lower Minnesota River Citizens Committee. The Committee efforts succeeded when the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge was created  by an act of congress in 1976. The Lower Minnesota River Citizens Committee continued to function following the creation of the refuge.


In the fall of 1981,  representatives of the Lower Minnesota River Citizens Committee, the Minnesota Valley Audubon Society, the Refuge Manager, and representatives of other agencies met to discuss forming an official 501c3 non profit organization to support the refuge.   At a meeting in September 1981, these groups decided to jointly form a new group, Friends of the Minnesota Valley (FMV) to serve primarily as an advocacy group for  the Refuge. Friends of the Minnesota Valley received its preliminary 501c3 approval on September 24th 1982 and formal approval May 26, 1988.


During the early years of both the refuge and Friends of the Minnesota Valley, FMV was very active in lobbying congress for federal funding to acquire land and build the visitor center at the refuge. Thanks in large part to the efforts of FMV, congress appropriated nearly $35,000,000 in 1983 for expansion of the refuge and construction of the visitor center. During the 1980s, the Board of the Friends decided to expand its focus from the refuge only to the entire watershed. This led to efforts and projects far beyond the borders of the original refuge. 


The following is from the Minnesota Valley Trust: "The Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge Trust, Inc. - commonly called the Minnesota Valley Trust - is a 501(c)3 tax-exempt, nonprofit corporation. The Trust was created through a settlement agreement with the Metropolitan Airports Commission to "mitigate the impact on the Refuge of the north-south runway at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport." The new north-south runway sends thousands of flights every month, both inbound and outbound, over The Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. Those flights impact wildlife and the public's use and enjoyment of the Refuge near the airport. For that reason, the settlement was reached to mitigate the impacts of the runway on the Refuge. The settlement created the nonprofit corporation, the Minnesota Valley Trust, and named five each of which appoints one of the five members of the Trust's board of directors. A one-time payment of $26.09 million was made to the Minnesota Valley Trust, which manages the funds and is responsible for meeting specific obligations, as detailed in the Refuge Mitigation Plan."

Proposed Music Amphitheater

When an outdoor Music Amphitheater was proposed for construction at the very edge of the 2600 acre Louisville Swamp unit of the wildlife refuge, the  Friends of the Minnesota Valley once more stepped forward to organize and lead public opposition to the proposed amphitheater. Excessive sound from the amphitheater would have seriously and negatively impacted the quite enjoyment of hikers, bird watchers and other visitors to this section of the Minnesota Valley Wildlife Refuge.   Through the work of the FMV, the amphitheater was never built and the Louisville Swamp Unit of the refuge continues to provide a place for refuge visitors to immerse themselves in nature. 


Minnesota Valley River Watch

In 2017 Friends of the Minnesota Valley launched the River Watch program. River Watch is a water quality monitoring program that engages high school students to help conduct water quality assessments on the Minnesota River.  Through River Watch, FMV is not only gathering scientific Water Quality data on the Minnesota River, but FMV is  helping hundreds of young people to learn valuable skills, learn about the importance of clean and unpolluted surface water, and creating an army of citizen advocates committed to  protecting the natural resources of the Minnesota River basin.

* Attribution: Much of the FMV historical information is taken from Chapter 15 of  the book Dream Hunter (2006) written by Ed Crozier, the first manager of the Minnesota Valley Wildlife Refuge, later President of the Friends of the Minnesota Valley, and later still a Board Member and Board Chair of the Minnesota Valley Trust. *


The Airport Settlement Agreement

The Friends of the Minnesota Valley filed a lawsuit against the Metropolitan Airports Commission contending that take offs and landings using a new runway degraded the the Wildlife Refuge, harmed the visitor experience,  and reduced the ability of the refuge to offer outdoor education programs in the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge.  The settlement agreement which ended that lawsuit resulted in payment of over $25,000,000 and the creation of the Minnesota Valley Trust. Funds from the trust have been used to add thousands of acres to the refuge and funded construction of the Carver Rapids Visitor Center. 


Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program 


During the 1990s, Friends of the Minnesota VAlley played a leading role in lobbying for the creation of the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program and lobbying for Federal and State funding. These efforts not only helped create the CREP program, but resulted in Federal and State appropriations of tens of millions of dollars which have been expended to purchase easements from willing landowners and removed over 100,000 acres of Minnesota River floodplain and other environmentally sensitive lands from active farming. The CREP program has had a significant effect on improving eater quality in the Minnesota River.


Friends of the Minnesota Valley Continues to Play an Active Role in the Minnesota River Basin FMV staff and Board Members are actively engaged in several efforts to protect the Natural Resources of the Minnesota River Basin. FMV staff were among the founders of the Minnesota River Congress. FMV has organized or help with petition drives calling for Environmental Assessment Worksheets for problematic projects in the valley. FMV has joined as petitioners calling for protection of specific Public Waters in the valley and larger basin.

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