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Heart of the Continent Partnership, which fosters cross-border collaboration for a thriving ecosystem, to host in-person events in Grand Portage this week

Feb 19, 2024 08:38AM ● By Content Editor
Photo: HOCP

By Laura Durenberger-Grunow - Boreal Community Media - February 19, 2024

Nestled between northeastern Minnesota and northwestern Ontario lies a vast expanse of pristine wilderness known as the "Heart of the Continent." This region boasts breathtaking landscapes, diverse ecosystems, and vibrant communities. But managing such a shared treasure requires a collaborative approach, which is where the Heart of the Continent Partnership (HOCP) comes in.

The HOCP emerged from a shared vision between land managers of protected areas like Voyageurs National Park, Quetico Provincial Park, the Superior National Forest, members of friends, foundation groups, and local stakeholders. Chris Stromberg, Coordinator at HOCP, shared with Boreal Community Media that the initial goal was to connect with others "That wanted to reach across the borders for a more natural view of managing the ecosystem and helping the local gateway communities benefit from sustainable tourism."

Recognizing the interconnectedness of the ecosystem and the potential benefits of collaboration, they joined forces around 2005. By 2007, the partnership officially adopted the name "Heart of the Continent Partnership".

 The area covered by the HOCP Geotourism Initiative. Image: HOCP

The HOCP's dedication to sustainable practices and community development eventually caught the eye of National Geographic, which noticed an alignment between HOCP and National Geographic's Geotourism Initiative. "National Geographic approached us and presented to us at our 2011 Community Congress. They suggested joining their Geotourism Initiative by becoming their next Geotourism Destination," Stromberg said. "In 2014 we had a draft National Geographic Geotourism MapGuide-WebSite and by 2015 launched  "Travel The Heart" that showcases the locals favourite places, activities, accommodations, etc., in the region."

Winter Gathering: Fostering Collaboration and Sharing Ideas

The HOCP traditionally held Gatherings up to four times a year, however, like many things, these were temporarily interrupted by the pandemic. Stromberg said that HOCP hopes to have four in-person events, with two being open to the public, in 2024. One of these in-person, open-to-the-public events will be taking place in Grand Portage, Minnesota, this week.

The Winter Gathering's Purpose and Audience

The primary goal of the Winter Gathering is to spark conversations. "Often in our daily work, we miss the chance to share what we are working on; some goals that could be achieved easier by learning from each, sharing information, and even sometimes work-load to create more opportunities that can benefit the public lands and gateway communities," said Stromberg.

Anyone who is interested in collaborating for the betterment of the people and the land is welcome to attend the Winter Gathering, which will take place on the evening of February 20 and during the day on February 21, at Grand Portage Lodge and Casino. Whether from the government, private sector, or a concerned citizen, you're encouraged to attend to learn and contribute your voice.

Sessions include some well-known Cook County residents, including Artists Discussion: How Does Your Art Help Tell the Stories? with Tim Cochrane, Staci Lola Drouillard, and Travis Novitsky, Respectful Work with Tribes with April McCormick and Travis Novitsky, various land management and coordination sessions, and videos and presentations on dark skies in the area. Additionally, weather permitting, attendees will have the opportunity to visit Spirit Tree with Travis Novitsky (please consider appropriate footwear for uneven trail terrain).

For a full list of events, including dates and times, visit the HOCP website here.

Flexible Participation and Accessibility

While in-person attendance is highly encouraged, recognizing the value of diverse perspectives, the HOCP hopes to stream the Wednesday sessions of the Winter Gathering on Microsoft Teams. However, Stromberg emphasizes the importance of face-to-face interaction, as some of the most valuable exchanges often occur during informal breaks.

Winter Gathering information and registration can be found here.

To learn more about the Heart of the Continent Partnership, visit

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