Greenspace: From Minnesota to the nation
Eric Jensen said he envisions Minnesota becoming a leader in energy conservation and alternative energy production, and as the new director of the Izaak Walton League's energy program, he's just the man to make that happen.
"The League has a long history of being involved in energy policy in Minnesota," said Jensen, who has directed the state's energy program for the League. "I want to use Minnesota as a test bed. We'll learn what's best in Minnesota optimally, and work on our membership in other states."
The Izaak Walton League of America is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to conservation and outdoor recreation.
A native of Wisconsin, Jensen has worked on energy policy in Minnesota for years. Most recently, he worked to help advance the Clean Energy Jobs Campaign that seeks to build jobs in the energy sector in Minnesota. A big part of that, Jensen said, is targeted tax credits for wind, thermal and solar energy, battery storage and thermal heat pumps.
For example, Jensen and the Izaak Walton League were proponents of the Solar Works for Minnesota campaign that evolved into that clean energy and jobs campaign.
We have a little bit of a boom in solar in the state," Jensen said. "The League had its fingerprints on that a little bit."
While his new position has a national perspective, Jensen said it's unlikely you'll find him sending much time in Washington, D.C. Instead, you'll see him working with state chapters to affect change at the local level. After all, Jensen argued, that plan worked in Minnesota.
In Minnesota, the IWL has nearly 20 chapters and hundreds of members. Success, Jensen said, has come from working with local chapters to engage local utilities, getting them involved in the changes in solar that have come to the state such as community solar gardens.
The IWL may not have chapters in every state — really just about half — but there are a total of nearly 40,000 members in the organization, mainly across the northern United States and the East Coast. And it's those people who Jensen hopes to rally to help transform their homes and businesses on when it comes to energy issues.
"It's far more productive to go to each state and see what's important to them," he said. "It's more of a grassroots engagement level."
With his engineering degree, Jensen said the Izaak Walton League has allowed him to take his interest in technology and find ways to make an impact in Minnesota and now nationally. But even that isn't the best part of working for the Izaak Walton League, Jensen said.
"I found that the league has helped me reconnect better with the environment," he said.
While that engineering background has led him to working in an urban environment, his connection with Izaak Walton League members has gotten him invited fishing, shooting and skiing.
"I tried biathlon a couple of years ago," he said. "The League helps me take that wonky technical side and reminds me to get out and enjoy nature."