For the Birds: Giving for open space

A bonus For the Birds on this Thanksgiving. Happy Thanksgiving everybody.

photo by Chris Bosak
photo by Chris Bosak
Wild turkeys in New England.

It is the giving season. Not only for presents under the tree but also for charitable giving during the holiday season — not to mention before the year ends for tax purposes. Sorry, had to add in that bit of practicality.

It’s also the time of year to be thankful, what with Thanksgiving coming up in a few days and all. Like every year, I am thankful for the joy that birds and nature bring to my life on a daily basis. We are lucky to live in New England where we get to fully experience the intensity of each season. The winters are cold, the summers are hot, the autumns are crisp and breathtaking, and the springs are sometimes slow to arrive, but totally worth the wait as the flowers bloom and birdsong fills the air.

Each season also has its bird highlights and there is never a dull moment in the woods or otherwise in the field with binoculars around your neck. Even the dead of winter has its rich rewards for the birdwatcher.

My hope, and I would guess yours, too, is that it stays that way. An often-cited study released recently shows that nearly 30 percent of North America’s bird population has disappeared in only the last 50 years. Many nonprofit organizations make it their mission, or at least part of their mission, to save birds. So, since it’s the giving season, here are a few suggestions on where to direct your charitable giving, if you are so inclined to donate to conservation efforts.

There will be no birds — or at least very few — without suitable habitat. Local organizations such as land trusts make it their mission to protect land. They have other conservation and ecological reasons for wanting to protect open space in addition to helping birds, but that is certainly one of their main objectives.

Land trusts do not have a political agenda and they don’t support a million programs that you may or may not agree with. They simply want to protect land. Most land trusts have a very small budget and many are run entirely by volunteers. You know your money is going to the cause at hand, not to a CEO making triple figures.

The other nice thing about land trusts is that the land is saved in perpetuity. It will not be wildlife habitat one year and a condo or a strip mall the next. It will always be habitat.

Do an Internet search to find the land trust nearest you. Chances are there is one that serves the town you live in.

There are other state and local conservation organizations, of course, that do great work. Again, a simple Internet search will help identify some you may want to support.

On the national level, organizations such as the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, American Bird Conservancy, Audubon Society and American Birding Association all have birds at the heart of their mission. Check their websites to see what comes with a membership as many offer newsletters, magazines, course discounts, and other benefits. Hunting organizations such as Ducks Unlimited, National Wild Turkey Federation, and Pheasants Forever also do outstanding work for habitat preservation.

There are other conservation groups, such as Sierra Club and Nature Conservancy, that are also worthy of a look as you consider your charitable giving this year.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

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