International Community Congress Balances Commerce and Nature

By KBJR News 1

October 26, 2011 Updated Oct 27, 2011 at 5:27 PM CDT

GRAND PORTAGE, MN (Northland's NewsCenter)---More than 100 community leaders from communities along both sides of the Minnesota border with Canada are meeting to open communication lines and develop strategies for sustaining natural resources.

The Heart of the Continent Region spreads across 5.2 million acres of mostly undeveloped forest land. It spans the Minnesota border with Canada to Rainy Lake and the shores of Lake Superior.

The International Community Congress focuses on creating sustainable economies and promoting interest in public lands throughout that region.

"So what we need to do is all work together and coordinate our efforts to provide a better experience for both those who are visiting but also our communities," Anna Deschampe of the Grand Portage State Park said. "How can we engage our communities in a healthy way throughout this process?"

Ten teams comprised of individuals from 20 different agencies started the workshop in Thunder Bay, Ontario and will finish in Grand Portage, Minnesota.

"Its an incredible networking opportunity," Ardy Nurmi-Wilberg of the Iron Range Partnership for Sustainability said. "I'm hooking up with people I would have never had the opportunity to meet with."

At the end of the four day workshop, each team launches a new economic initiative, but international collaboration doesn't stop there.

"There are several of us whose job is to follow up with various teams who were assigned down the road to make sure that the project and action plans they developed at the congress are implemented and followed through on," Ian Kimmer, of the Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness said.

This year's community congress will run through Thursday.

Posted to the web: Jennifer Walch