Our Mississippi Our Future supporters are holding a community forum from 3 to 5 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 26 “to demonstrate deep-rooted support in Minnesota for keeping clean water clean including in the Mississippi River’s headwaters area,” according to a news release.

The community forum will be held in the fellowship hall at First Lutheran Church in Bemidji. Community forums will also be held in Duluth, Grand Rapids, Little Falls, and St. Cloud.

State lawmakers, local officials and community leaders are invited to join citizens in conversations about the value of clean water and how to protect rivers, lakes and streams. Area residents who want to ensure our waters remain clean and healthy are encouraged to attend.

Our Mississippi Our Future is a grassroots campaign that seeks to unite Minnesotans to support the protection and restoration of the Mississippi and the state’s most significant waters. Visit ourmississippiourfuture.org for more information and to register.

Organizers note that the Mississippi and its headwaters area, which encompasses almost 13 million acres in central Minnesota, provides clean drinking water for 2.5 million Minnesotans – more than 44 percent of the state's residents.

“The river and the land surrounding the rivers and streams that flow into it support more than 350 species of mammals, birds, and other wildlife, including most of the endangered, threatened and rare species listed in Minnesota,” states the news release. “The state’s renowned lakes and rivers support a $15-billion-dollar annual tourism and recreational economy, including fishing, hunting, birding, wilderness recreation and other nature-based activities. The Mississippi also serves as an economic engine by helping move agricultural and industrial goods.

“Today, however, economic forces are driving changes in land use that threaten our water quality and our quality of life. As a result, we’re losing natural areas that we need for clean water. Since 2010, more than 500,000 acres in the river’s headwaters area alone were converted to urban development and agriculture, with the largest proportion occurring in critical water supply source areas.”