Minnesota

Students show off invasive white clover they pulled at the Prairie Wetlands Learning Center, MN.
Students show off invasive white clover they pulled at the Prairie Wetlands Learning Center, MN.
Credit: Russ Aguilar

The question of funding educational programs lurked for months, maybe years, before the Friends of the Prairie Wetlands Learning Center created an endowment in 2010 for a long–term solution. The first contribution came from the Grady Mann family in 2010; Mann opened the first wetlands office in Fergus Falls, MN, in 1954.


The goal is to raise $1 million in 10 years. At the two–year mark, the endowment has about $110,000.


“The contribution is a wonderful example of how individuals can make a difference in the lives of so many,” said former Friends president Dave Sanderson, who still leads the five–member endowment committee.


The West Central Initiative, a regional community foundation which administers the endowment, provided training and strategic advice. “People are uncomfortable asking for money,” says Sanderson, “so we practiced how to do interviews.” One effective strategy is flexible giving, which allows donors to designate a portion of their contribution to the endowment and a portion to projects they like. One such project is the Yellow Bus Fund to transport school children to the Learning Center. Donors may make a one–time contribution or give a smaller amount each year.


The Friends also created the Monarch Society to accept bequests. “We’ll go back to the people who contributed initially,” says Sanderson, “and ask them to include us in their estate planning.”


“We’ll be lean for 10 years,” says Matthew Conner, director of the Learning Center, which is connected to the Fergus Falls Wetland Management District. Then Conner expects the fund to begin covering the costs of as many as four nine–month interns to help serve the 8,000 youngsters who come to the center every year.


Louisiana

Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge manager Kelly Purkey paddles a new trail through the cypress.
Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge manager Kelly Purkey paddles a new trail through the cypress.
Credit: LSU AgCenter

Four new trails for canoes and kayaks were dedicated this fall at Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge. The neighboring Friends of Black Bayou helped visitors learn how to take advantage of them.


The trails are an America’s Great Outdoors project coordinated by the Louisiana State University AgCenter. The Walton Family Foundation gave a $235,000 grant, which enabled designation of easily accessible put–in and take–out spots, development of brochures and paddling workshops.


Friends of Black Bayou, known for its interest in canoeing and eagerness to volunteer with community groups, readily agreed to coordinate four paddling workshops on Black Bayou Lake. “Any time we cooperate with other agencies, it always ends up helping us,” says Friends vice president Ann Smith. The LSU AgCenter and a local paddling outfitter publicized the workshops, which also publicized the refuge.


Besides, added Smith, “this is something we believe in. It will get more people out on the lake, it will let people know that we rent canoes and bring people to the refuge.”


Dora Ann Hatch, the LSU AgCenter agritourism coordinator, believes the paddling trails will also demonstrate to landowners that they can use their land to support paddlers who want to camp, hike or hunt. “We’re thrilled about the opportunities to generate ecotourism in the region.”


Maine

Welcome to the Sunkhaze Café: Discovering Nature’s Wonders over Coffee. On the third Saturday of the month, the Friends of Sunkhaze Meadows National Wildlife Refuge invites anyone interested in nature and wildlife to have coffee at the Daybreak Bakery in Old Town, not far from the refuge. Ten to 15 people show up to hear talks about invasive species, marsh birds, Atlantic salmon and even the impact of a new transportation corridor through the community.


“Not only are the topics interesting, but the public is learning more about how they can help conserve native species,” says Friends member Eleanor D’Urso. “In a relaxed atmosphere, natural resource professionals and scientists share the work and research they are passionate about.”


D’Urso recommends advertising early and often when initiating such projects. Friends post flyers and take advantage of free advertising space in the community newspaper. They are also reaching beyond the immediate area to Bangor, about 15 miles away.


Old Town High School teacher Ed Lindsey will speak about dragonflies on December 15 at the Sunkhaze Café, organized by the Friends of Sunkhaze Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, ME.
Old Town High School teacher Ed Lindsey will speak about dragonflies on December 15 at the Sunkhaze Café, organized by the Friends of Sunkhaze Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, ME.
Credit: Ed Lindsey