The Heart of the Continent Partnership Comes of Age

By Rob Kesselring

Six years ago Quetico Park Superintendent Robin Reilly first approached the Quetico Foundation with the idea of developing an international border lakes coalition. His rationale was that a moose can wander the region crossing willy-nilly through provincial, state and international jurisdictions and if we are going to protect, understand and study that moose we need a similar freedom to communicate openly and clearly with everyone concerned regardless of their affiliation. But there was a second reason to come together; the 100th birthday of Quetico-Superior was fast approaching and there was a need to coordinate celebrations. Some observers feared that once the party was over the coalition would dissolve.

But the moose won. What has come to be
called, The Heart of the Continent Partnership (HOCP) is growing stronger with every meeting. Collaboration on research, a regular forum to exchange information and an emerging focus on harvesting the wisdom of communities in the region to help build identity and support economic growth, are all tangible examples of an organization that has found its niche. Successful projects have spanned the spectrum, from collaboration on a sturgeon study to hosting a cooperative 60 participant expedition to celebrate the “heart” by voyageur canoe.

Three factors have contributed mightily to the success of the partnership. Only once each year does the HOCP meet in a metropolitan area. Moving the quarterly meeting site from community to community along the edge of the “heart” keeps the meetings fresh and real. Secondly, at a key moment in time, the Quetico Superior Foundation supplied HOCP with seed money. This enabled the organization to build some inertia, hire a coordinator and develop a HOCP culture with group norms, a mission, goals and objectives. Finally, HOCP was founded on the principle of not taking environmental or political positions. It has steadfastly adhered to that tenet. Being an inclusive, non-partisan forum has encouraged a respectful exchange of ideas and a deep level of trust.

The most recent two-day April, 22nd-23rd, meeting included a public lecture by forest ecologist, Dr. Lee Frelich. At the Friday session the group formulated the beginnings of a method to gather contributions so that the HCOP can become self-sustaining. The group also reviewed current and past scientific research within the HCOP geography with an emphasis on encouraging increased collaboration. Participants who attended the World Wilderness Conference shared how, at that event, the HOCP was recognized as an outstanding example of international cooperation. Also on Friday’s agenda were presentations by the Great Lakes Forest Alliance, Wilderness Inquiry, and the Urban Connections Initiative.

At the meeting Robin Reilly unveiled the new HOCP logo. It is not a wandering moose, but instead an artful sprig of bunchberry and some classy lettering. Truly, the Heart of Continent Partnership has come of age.

The next HOCP meeting will be held in Grand Portage, Minnesota on July 29th-30th, 2010.

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