Strengthening communities neighboring public lands

Strengthening Communities that Neighbor Public Lands

The Heart of the Continent Partnership (HOCP) is a Canadian/American coalition of land managers, community leaders and local stakeholders working together on cross-border projects that promote the natural, economic, and cultural health of the lakes, forests and communities along the Ontario/Minnesota border.

Heart of the Continent Partnership builds dialogue, cooperation and capacity among communities, public land managers, and conservation and recreation groups to benefit our border region.

In 2010 and beyond, HOCP will work with other organizations promoting dialogue throughout the Heart of the Continent region to enable vibrant communities to flourish alongside healthy public lands. To this end, Heart of the Continent Partnership plans to host a region-wide, community-based training that focuses gateway communities on effectively balancing nature and commerce with a focus on cross-border opportunities.

In anticipation of sponsoring workshops for our local communities, HOCP has been working with The Conservation Fund (US Fish & Wildlife Service and the National Park Service) of Shepherdstown, WV. They have developed a stellar training program that has enabled other border communities with large areas of public lands, including International Falls, to jumpstart their efforts.

HOCP would like to send a core planning team to participate in the training, Balancing Nature and Commerce in Communities that Neighbor Public Lands in January, 2010. This group would serve as the core of the design team for an HOCP-sponsored training for gateway communities to be offered locally in 2011.

The design team from our area will include a diverse group of up to 15 participants including – representatives of area counties, cities, land agencies, non-profit organizations, businesses, etc. A smaller “core” group of this team, between 4 and 8 people, would begin by participating in the training, Balancing Nature and Commerce in Communities that Neighbor Public Lands. The next training will be held Jan 25 – 28, 2010 in Shepherdtown, WV. The cost will be $760 per person plus travel & per diem. Partial scholarships may be available. If interested please contact [email protected].

Robin Reilly, superintendent of the Quetico Provincial Park, sees great potential in communities working in partnership with each other and with land managers. Many communities, he noted are facing economic challenges and are looking to diversify and strengthen their economies. “Historically, border communities have either worked in isolation from each other or in competition with one another,” said Reilly. “By bringing them all to a joint gateway community training, they could develop their own local strategies, but at the same time discover new opportunities for working together to discover combined strategies to build the region.”

HOCP would like to include as many groups and individuals as possible to sustain and celebrate the health, beauty, diversity and productivity of the natural and cultural resources of the Border Lakes Region. HOCP is a politically neutral forum for meeting, sharing and developing strategies for strengthening our border region.

HOCP plans to promote gateway community dialogue throughout 2010 and 2011. This plan grew out of the successful “Canoe the Heart of the Continent- Centennial Canoe Voyage” in July 2009, which celebrated the centennial of Quetico Provincial Park and the Superior National Forest. A diverse team of paddlers took an 18-day voyage in a large, historically-accurate canoe, traveling from Atikokan to International Falls, on to Ely and Grand Marais, ending in Thunder Bay. The expedition, with local celebrations in towns along the way, highlighted the unique character of many of the communities that border public lands. They built awareness of the fact that the lakes, forests and communities of this beautiful region form an interconnected whole.

“This expedition, and HOCP’s work in general, is getting people talking to people that they weren’t talking to before.” said Doug Franchot, Chair HOCP Steering Committee. “New ideas and new ways of work together are emerging. That’s really exciting and positive. I am energized by HOCP’s plans for building collaboration and strengthen our local communities.”

People interested in working with the gateway community effort should contact Doug Franchot at [email protected] or (612) 801-6888; or Bret Hesla, HOCP Coordinator at [email protected] or 612-333-1858.

The next Heart of the Continent Partnership general meeting is February 4th and 5th in Thunder Bay. All interested parties are welcome.