by Christine Herwig, DNR northwest region nongame specialist
The birds have mostly flown south, the butterflies are cocooned until spring, and the turtles have settled in for a long winter’s nap. But for the biologists who work with these species, December is a busy time of analyzing research data, writing reports and getting ready for next year’s field season. It’s also the time of year when staff with Minnesota’s Nongame Wildlife Program reflect on what makes their work to protect and manage the state’s birds, butterflies and turtles possible: donations from generous and engaged Minnesotans.
Unique within the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the program is mostly funded through donations from individuals and groups. By making a donation online to the Nongame Wildlife Program as part of their end of year giving, Minnesotans can support more than 800 types of wildlife, including threatened and endangered species.
People give to this program because of its role in highly visible conservation success stories, such as the recovery of loons, bald eagles, trumpeter swans and ospreys. They also understand the value of the program’s work on behalf of less charismatic species that play important roles in Minnesota’s ecosystems and natural heritage, such as the timber rattlesnake, northern goshawk, Blanding’s turtle, eastern hognose snake, common terns, native mussel species and many others.
The program is doing good work, but there are many more species that need a helping hand from committed individuals and organizations. Every dollar donated to the nongame fund is matched by revenue from Reinvest in Minnesota critical habitat license plates. Donations also are used as match to federal grants and other outside funding sources, leveraging additional money to support nongame species conservation, research and habitat protection projects, such as:
- The “Get the Lead Out” campaign, promoting a voluntary change from lead tackle and ammunition to prevent lead poisoning in birds, mammals and fish.
- Research on the effects of the BP oil spill on loons, pelicans and other water birds.
- Surveys to determine nesting habitat needs of northern long-eared bats, a species threatened by white-nose syndrome.
- Partnerships with local and state groups for on-the-ground wildlife conservation efforts and to promote viewing opportunities.
- The popular Eagle Cam and Falcon Cam websites.
All these projects – and the wildlife they benefit — owe a debt of gratitude to the many individuals and organizations who have generously contributed their time, skills and money.
As the year and the “season of giving” come to a close, Minnesotans may want to consider what they can do to add to this list of conservation success stories. Those interested in making a donation can do so on the nongame donation page. Also consider the Nongame Wildlife Program in part of an estate plan. For more information, visit the nongame page.