Alumnus receives environmental award

For his years of work and dedication to environmental issues, House District 52A Rep. Rick Hansen ‘85 received the Willard Munger Award for Distinguished Environmental Partnership from the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party. Hansen received the award Dec. 9 at the DFL Founders’ Day Dinner held in Minneapolis.  

The award is named for former Rep. Willard Munger. One of the longest serving members of the Minnesota House of Representatives until his death in 1999, Munger earned a reputation as Minnesota’s “Mr. Environment” for his leadership and activist work on environmental legislation. 

Rep. Rick Hansen ’85

Hansen grew up on a small farm in rural Minnesota. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biology from Upper Iowa University in Fayette and earned a master’s degree in soil management from Iowa State University. Hansen worked for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture from 1998 to 2005. Prior to being elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives in 2004, Hansen served on the Dakota County Soil and Water Commission. 

 With that background, colleague Rep. Jean Wagenius said Hansen is one of the members of the Minnesota House of Representatives who best understands agriculture.   

“That’s what makes him such an effective environmentalist,” Wagenius said. “Rick understood right away that we couldn’t protect pollinators unless we dealt with the lethal pollinator insecticides. So he passed the strongest bill in the nation to protect pollinators.” 

Lex Horan, an organizer with Pesticide Action Network praised Hansen not only for his work on issues, but how he gets the job done. 

 “I think one of my favorite things about working with Rep. Hansen and the issues we collaborate on is watching him figure out creative ways to approach issues, so that we keep making progress,” Horan said. “Whether it is pesticides contaminating our state’s waterways, the roles of pesticides in pollinator decline, he’s always curious to find ways that those issues connect to each other and ways that we can make change.”

 David Hartwell, a past Munger award winner and member of the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council, said he sees similarities between Munger and Hansen. 

 “Representative Munger was a huge fan of doing all things that were great for the environment,” Hartwell said. “He was a passionate advocate and Rick has done the same. He is not afraid to stand up and be counted and to do what it takes on behalf of our natural areas.” 

When thinking about Munger’s years of service, Hansen said that he kept working, looking for new challenges and focusing on what more Minnesotans could do for the environment.  

 “We’ve done good work in Minnesota, but we have more to do,” Hansen said. “I’m hopeful to be part of that in the future.”

(Note: This article was posted with permission from Lillie Suburban Newspapers –

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