Your Task

  1. Read the overall briefing materials (current and proposed wild rice standards, Environmental Justice Framework, timeline) and note key points.

  2. Read your group’s briefing materials on this page and note key points.

  3. Discuss an appropriate standard for wild rice protection from the environmentalist standpoint considering political, economic, social, and cultural factors.

  4. Fill in the Rainbow Diagram for Stakeholder Visualization. Think about the following questions:

    • Are there differences within your group? Is there a shared worldview?

    • How much influence does the group have, or might it have?

    • How the group has or might exert its influence?

    • How large is the group or how large could it become?

    • How is the group organized to make decisions?

    • What are the financial resources or social capital of the group?

  5. Consider if your group is “affected by” or is “affecting” wild rice protection, or both.

  6. Prepare key talking points for a brief presentation of your group’s analysis.

  7. Read the highlights from the MPCA’s Final Technical Support Document: Refinements to Minnesota’s Sulfate Water Quality Standard to Protect Wild Rice
  8. Review the multimedia resources below.
  • Read the highlights from the MPCA’s Final Technical Support Document: Refinements to Minnesota’s Sulfate Water Quality Standard to Protect Wild Rice
  • Review the multimedia resources below


Several Minnesota environmental organizations have worked together in recent years to advocate for the strongest possible wild rice protection. While environmental priorities like clean water and ecosystem health are a central focus, these environmental organizations also advocate for the rights of wild rice hand harvesters, the rights of waterfowl hunters using wild rice beds, and the sovereignty and cultural rights of Tribal Nations in Minnesota to wild rice. The environmental organizations stand by keeping a 10 mg/L limit on sulfates as being the strongest way to protect naturally-growing wild rice. The organizations indicate support from established science, starting in the 1940s through more recent research by John Pastor of University of Minnesota-Duluth (in particular) supporting their stance. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s  (EPA) evaluation of the current limit support the current standard.

Environmental organizations also raise concern that “Moving from a uniform standard for every body of water in the state to a formula for individual bodies of water could create openings for political pressure,” as Kathryn Hoffman, attorney at the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy (MCEA) says, adding “You have introduced a lot of uncertainty that is vulnerable to politics.” (Source).

Upholding the Sulfate Standard

Often taking a lead role in legal and administrative proceedings, WaterLegacy submitted a brief titled Preserve Minnesota’s Wild Rice Standard to the MPCA that focused on the need to keep the existing sulfate standard and not pursue a seasonally-based application of it, which had been under consideration. The brief submits the possibility of sulfate releases documented in a Draft Environmental Impact Study (DEIS) submitted by the PolyMet project development team as evidence in favor of strong enforcement of the existing standard. Furthermore, WaterLegacy argues that sulfate already leaching from an existing mine pit, the Dunka Pit, that lies in the same “Duluth Complex” area in which PolyMet would operate, indicates the difficulty of achieving clean water in a mining operation. The PolyMet mine would affect a nearby water body, the Partridge River, which WaterLegacy documents to be known by and made use of by wild rice hand harvesters.

Infographic © Kelly Shea and Mark Townsend / Circle of Blue.

We already know that the existing sulfate limit is effective and reasonable. But MPCA, ignoring evidence that the equation they are developing is flawed, continues down this path and away from protecting wild rice. They are developing this very complex and flawed process based on pressure from the mining industry and Iron Range lawmakers when their primary concern should be protecting wild rice.

Paula MaccabeeWaterLegacy Advocacy Director and Counsel

Beyond Mining: The Potential Threat of Enbridge

Oil company Enbridge is proposing a pipeline carrying fracked oil from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota, to cross northern Minnesota, or Anishinaabe Aakiing. Honor the Earth believes the proposed pipeline threatens the delicate and critical ecosystems of the north and the communities who rely on such foods as wild rice.