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Environmental History

By David Schmidtke

In the new book, Nature's Crossroads: The Twin Cities and Greater Minnesota, editors George Vrtis and Christopher Wells have compiled an extensive environmental history of the state of Minnesota, with a particular focus on the relationship between the Twin Cities and greater Minnesota.

Divided into three sections, the first part “The Dynamics of Environmental Change: Cities, Commodities, Hinterlands,” explores the early relationship of the Twin Cities to the “hinterlands” – the authors’ moniker for greater Minnesota. In the second part, “The Twin Cities and the Built Environment,” the authors focus on the Twin Cities’ “urban confines.”

And the last part, “Environmental Politics, Thought, and Justice,” looks at how the environmental movement has influenced various regions and at times created tension between different geographic areas of Minnesota.

For more environmental history, be sure and check out the March-April 2023 Minnesota Conservation Volunteer article, “Paddling Into the Past: Three canoeists retrace the path of Arthur Carhart, a key character in the Boundary Waters origin story.” Side-by-side photos from the 1921 and 2022 trips illustrate the beauty of this Minnesota treasure.

Photo of Glen Stubbe next to his photography exhibitThe Legislative Reference Library is pleased to have Star Tribune photographer Glen Stubbe's engaging photographs of the Senate and the Capitol on display in the Library's Senate location.  Come see them soon--or stop by during a reception for Glen's exhibit on Thursday, January 19 from 9:30-11.  Cookies will be served!

Glen's Star Tribune colleague, Briana Bierschbach, wrote words of introduction to Glen's exhibit: 

At the Minnesota Capitol, the state Senate is the stately upper chamber, where senators and reporters must follow a dress code and decorum tends to prevail over fiery passions. But it can also be a place of warmth, where political rivals share a prayer, freshly baked bars and pat on the back after a grueling debate.

As a staff photographer for the Star Tribune, Glen Stubbe is often in the room where it happens, capturing both the debates that shape state policy and the little moments that show the humanity of the institution. He taps into a deep understanding of his source material and relationships developed over many years to capture moments others don't.

These images pull back the curtain on government in a way no words could ever convey.

-Briana Bierschbach, Politics and Government Reporter at the Star Tribune


Learn the names of the brand new legislators and refresh your memory on the returning members by taking the Minnesota Legislator Quiz! Can you get a perfect score?

Image of a legislator and a list of names to select from for the Legislator Quiz.


Reports from Minnesota Charities and Nonprofits The Library receives a number of reports from and about Minnesota charities and nonprofit organizations. These reports often provide another point of view on state public policy issues than is available through official reports from state agencies and task forces.

This month, the Library added Minnesota Nonprofit Economy Report: Current Conditions and COVID-19 Impact Update 6.0 (October 2022), from the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits (MCN), an association of more than 2,200 Minnesota nonprofits. This new report is their sixth special report summarizing key impacts on Minnesota’s nonprofit sector and economy. The MCN regularly surveys nonprofits to better understand the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, international movements for racial justice, economic challenges, and other events. Since March 2020, the MCN has conducted six surveys and issued six follow-up reports summarizing key trends, impacts, and outlook. All five previous reports are also available online: May 2020July 2020December 2020May 2021December 2021.

Another valuable resource the Library receives from the MCN is the biennial Minnesota Nonprofit Salary and Benefits Survey. The 2022 edition is now available in both print and online. The report details current salary ranges, including increases and raises; health, dental, and cafeteria plans offered; retirement, disability and life insurance benefits; paid time off including vacation, sick leave and holidays; and more.

From the Office of the Minnesota Attorney General, the Library recently added updated editions of Nonprofit Organization Resources (2022) and  A Guide to Minnesota's Charities Laws (2022). Also in this month’s list of new reports is Giving in Minnesota: 2021 Report from the Minnesota Council on Foundations. Providing a comprehensive look at grantmaking done in the 2019 fiscal year, the report features a follow-up survey about current grantmaking practices underway in Minnesota. Reflecting on shifts in grantmaking practices that began in 2020, they write: “The data in this Grantmaking and Practices Survey reveals that philanthropy in Minnesota has not returned to the old “normal” but has continued on a path of change.”

In 2019, the Legislature established a legislative staff working group on accessibility measures to address the course of action for digital accessibility standards in the Minnesota Legislative branch in Laws of Minnesota 2019, 1st special session, chapter 10, article 5

Staff from the House, Senate, and joint offices have been meeting regularly since late summer 2021. They’ve surveyed legislative staff, elicited a business process mapping project to identify how digital information is used in the committee process, contracted an audit with a third-party accessibility audit company, and have been writing a report to the Legislature, which is due in January of 2023. 

The meetings have included digital accessibility training from various sources. Presentations and feedback from stakeholder organizations, executive branch agencies, and other states through a National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) presentation have been significant pieces of input that the working group has received. The Working Group has heard presentations from stakeholder organizations such as the Disability Council, State Services for the Blind, MNIT Office of Accessibility, and the Minnesota Commission of the Deaf, DeafBlind & Hard of Hearing. 

Among training offered to working group members, the Library has collected a few recent books, which you also may enjoy reading: Approachable Accessibility: Planning for Success by Martine Dowden explains the importance of digital accessibility and goes on to explain how to engage your team, create an action plan, and the resources you’ll need along the way. Another recent addition to the Library shows state-level legal requirements and policy by state. Much of this information is about state executive branch and public higher education compliance: 2021/2022 State and Federal Accessibility Guidelines

The required report will assist the Legislature in its work making legislative information more digitally accessible.

(Update: The final report was issued on January 12, 2023: Legislative Staff Working Group on Accessibility Measures Report.)

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