The city of Stillwater may take another step in its sustainability goals.

Minnesota GreenStep Cities is a voluntary challenge to cites, assistance and recognition program to help cities achieve their sustainability and quality-of-life goals. The program includes resources to cities to follow best practices in achieving their goals and a five-step recognition system when cities reach their goals. Stillwater achieved its first step goal on July 31, 2018 and its second step on May 31, 2019.

In its work plan to attain its step three in the program by 2021, Stillwater has identified the status of a “Bird City” as a goal, said Bill Turnblad, the city’s community development director, at the Nov. 19 city council meeting.

Turnblad said that local organizations, including non-profit Sustainable Stillwater, have asked to being this work in 2020.

“We are bringing it to you to get comments,” Turnblad said.

Graham Tait, who coordinators the GreenStep Cities program for the city, would also coordinate the city’s work for the Bird City designation.

The program show 18 best practices for the city to select a minimum of seven practices to implement.

All cities are required to hold a celebration recognizing International Migratory Bird Day with a birding event. Other practices would include education for residents and visitors about birds, conservation of bird habitats, and implement efforts to reduce threats to birds.

“Some are quite aggressive, some are not so much,” Turnblad said.

Like other conservation efforts, the city would look to local partnerships to fulfill some of the requirements. Once these partners are identified, a program of work would be put in place. For example, Turnblad said the city could put together a birding map of habitats for local birds for residents and visitors to seek out. Many of the best practices for the Bird City designation go along with efforts already implemented through existing programs.

Turnblad asked the city council if they were interested in starting this process a year early in 2020, or to keep the work plan on the schedule for 2021.

“I think it is a great program, but I worry about your workload,” said council member Tom Weidner. “I think everyone has the city’s best interest in mind, but I think it is prioritizing ... there is a lot on your plate.”

Turnblad said that they will be bringing an updated work plan to the council in December as the city staff looks to the new year, and could include the Bird City program that update.

“We can begin it next year, but it doesn’t mean we have to finish it next year,” Turnblad said.

Council member Mike Polehna said he would be in favor of allowing a community group like Sustainable Stillwater to begin work on the program, but worried about putting more work on city staff.

“There are some things we can already check off, and there are some things that will take a little more effort,” Turnblad said, noting the city’s role would be to coordinate efforts.

The council encouraged city staff to look at adding the Bird City program to the 2020 work plan, but stressed to not add more to the workload if it isn’t feasible.

Contact Alicia Lebens at alicia.lebens@ecm-inc.com

Load comments