State Legislators Tour Floodplain Forests on the Mississippi River by Boat
May 31, 2023
Legislators learn the benefits of natural infrastructure as they seek solutions for habitat preservation and water quality
On Tuesday, May 30, 12 state legislators from Minnesota and Wisconsin participated in a boat tour to learn firsthand about the habitat and floodplain forest loss along the Mississippi River. The tour began with a visit to the Upper Mississippi River National Fish & Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center to learn about the history of the Mississippi River from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. On the boat tour, experts from the Mississippi River Legislative Caucus (MRLC) and the National Audubon Society facilitated a discussion on the importance of natural infrastructure on the river and in the watershed, as well as policies to support these nature-based solutions.
As habitat and floodplain forests along the Mississippi River continue to decrease in quantity and quality, this degradation impacts a wide range of issues such as biodiversity, water quality, soil erosion, and flooding. Legislators discussed policy solutions on the state level as well as ways to leverage all the recent federal funding opportunities to support natural infrastructure and thus support the ecosystem and economy.
“This was a great opportunity for legislators to experience the importance of clean water, pollution reduction, and habitat protection firsthand,” said Dylan McDowell, Executive Director of the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators. “It’s our hope that touring the river can serve as inspiration and give them firsthand knowledge for effective policymaking. We look forward to seeing new collaborations that are spurred from this event.”
“There is no substitute for seeing our incredible natural landscapes up close to bring meaning to the areas we work to protect and restore,” Lindsay J. Brice, Policy Director for Audubon Minnesota. “We are grateful to the lawmakers who took the time to join us to learn more about the important floodplain forest habitat and the birds of the Upper Mississippi River.”
“Healthy wetlands and floodplains are an important natural infrastructure on the river and the watershed that store floodwaters, reduce flood peaks and provide habitat for birds and wildlife in the region,” said Brian Vigue, Policy Director of Freshwater for Audubon Great Lakes. “ Working to secure a bright future for the birds and local communities has never been more important. We thank our lawmakers for joining us today to learn more about our work to restore the wetland habitat, because we know healthy birds mean healthy communities.”
The tour was organized by MRLC staff in partnership with the National Audubon Society and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The MRLC was established to better coordinate state legislators in the states bordering the Mississippi River around river health and sustainable infrastructure development.
The Mississippi River Legislative Caucus is a project of the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators (NCEL). Created by and for state legislators, NCEL is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that organizes over 1,200 environmentally-committed state legislators from all 50 states and both parties. NCEL provides venues and opportunities for lawmakers to share ideas and collaborate on environmental issues.