Various non-profit organizations focused on water, conservation, environmental justice, sustainability and related areas.

Mining Industry

Mining companies and miners or former miners who tend to support the company views.


University researchers and scientists from state agencies. Usually adherents to Western Science.

Tribal Nations

Local tribal members, elders and holders of Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK).

Start Here

  1. Review these briefing materials first.
  2. After you have examined these materials, please visit your assigned stakeholder group’s resource link and determine what standard you would support from the perspective of your stakeholder group.
  3. Prepare for classroom discussion.

Briefing Materials

Current and Proposed Wild Rice Protection Standards

A summary of the current and proposed wild rice protection standards in Minnesota, which relate to water quality and sulfate levels.

Environmental Justice Overview

A summary of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s (MPCA) Minnesota Environmental Justice Framework. The full framework is available here, but it is not necessary for it to be reviewed.

Timeline of Events

A Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) article containing a timeline showing the status of wild rice protection rules in Minnesota in the 20th century and especially since 2010.

The Wild Rice-Water Protection case and this Stakeholder Analysis exercise arise in the context of debate about the development of large-scale copper-sulfate mines that has been underway in northern Minnesota for the past ten years. These mines hold promise of good-paying jobs and tax revenues for Minnesota. The state has a history of comparatively safe mining, but the mining could also harm the environment in various ways, with wild rice being the focus of this case.

Scientists agree that the growth of wild rice could be impaired by sulfate from mining if mining ponds and tailings piles are not well regulated. Minnesota is unique in the U.S. because it regulates sulfate in wild rice waters. Wild rice holds special importance to American Indian communities in this region. Many Minnesotans value wild rice harvesting and having water clean enough to grow wild food.

Image Source: MPR News

Learning Objectives
Students will be able to:

  • Understand the diverse worldviews and different capacities to affect the wild rice protection situation of the various stakeholders in the case.
  • Assess the levels of influence, resources, cultural connection and organization of the stakeholders, in the context of human needs and human rights.

Participants will be assigned to one of four Stakeholder Groups and given time to review briefing materials. In their group, they will discuss the issues in this case from the perspective of their group. Participants’ focus should be their group’s view of the appropriate standard for wild rice protection (if any), keeping in mind the political, economic, social, and cultural factors that are part of real policy decisions. An additional challenge will be for groups to consider how they might make use of the priorities in the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s Environmental Justice Framework (established in 2013). Participants will present their group’s reasoning process to the class, their preferred standard, and their ideas for how they might advocate for their position in the policymaking process. Class will end with analyzing how each group is affecting or being affected by proposed policy change, using a Rainbow Diagram

Chevalier, J. M., & Buckles, D. J. (2008). SAS2: A guide to collaborative inquiry and social engagement. IDRC.

“While sulfate does not directly harm wild rice, it is converted into sulfide—which can severely impact wild rice—by bacteria that naturally occurs in the sediment where wild rice grows.”

Alexandra Dapolito Dunn and William F. Davies II (Source).