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MN350 for Bemidji: State environmental group opens Bemidji chapter

Nancy Beaulieu helped open an office for the environmental organization MN350 in the Rail River Folk School in Bemidji. (Jordan Shearer | Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI—A Minnesota environmentalist group that made itself known in Bemidji by protesting oil pipelines now has a local chapter with offices in the city, thanks to Nancy Beaulieu and other activists.

Beaulieu, who lives just east of Bemidji, opened the doors to the local MN350 chapter Dec. 1. She now works out of an office at the Rail River Folk School in Bemidji and is in charge of community outreach, plans events and educates visitors about sustainability.

Along with other local activists Karen Kimbrough, Donna Gaston and recent BSU graduate Jordan Morgan, Beaulieu has long participated in anti-pipeline events. She was part of a group that asked the Bemidji City Council to divest from Wells Fargo in January 2017, due to the bank's investment in the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Eventually, the group considered becoming a nonprofit, before deciding to try and become part of MN350, due to Morgan's connections to the organization.

"We were talking about, should we be a nonprofit or not, and then we were like God no, we don't want to go through that whole process," Kimbrough said. "With Jordan (Morgan) already being involved with MN350 we were like, well can we be a chapter of them?"

At the same time, MN350 was looking to create chapters in Greater Minnesota. The group aims to respond to climate change through grassroots campaigns and often participates in direct action in the Twin Cities.

Activists with MN350 have also traveled to Bemidji and other nearby communities multiple times to protest Enbridge Energy Co.'s proposed Line 3 replacement project.

After Beaulieu and the others expressed their interest to MN350, Andy Pearson, the group's Midwest tar sands coordinator, traveled to Bemidji to interview them.

"We found out about a week later (that) we got officially adopted," Beaulieu said. "No. 1 it was the passion. Andy (Pearson) did tell me that it was the passion that we put forth, so that played a big part."

For two months now, Beaulieu has been working to drum up interest in MN350's mission. She reaches out to people from all walks of life and preaches sustainability. In her small office, Beaulieu even has a box full of craft projects that she uses to reduce her use of plastic. She shows off her bar soap, homemade dishcloths and reusable grocery bags to visitors as examples of environmentally friendly options.

The Bemidji chapter is now ready to open its doors to the public. An open house is set for Saturday afternoon will include homemade cookies and crafts, and, Beaulieu said, will hopefully allow her to recruit volunteers.

"The movement, it comes with a lot of love and understanding," Beaulieu said. "We develop friendships...that's a big thing in our movement."

If you go:

What: MN350 Bemidji chapter open house

When: 2 p.m. - 6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 3

Where: Rail River Folk School

Grace Pastoor

Grace Pastoor covers crime, courts and social issues for the Bemidji Pioneer. Contact her at (218) 333-9796 or gpastoor@bemidjipioneer.com

(218) 333-9796
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