For the Birds: Supporting conservation this giving season

One of my favorite places is a small pond in northern New Hampshire near the Canadian border.

It is miles from the nearest house and, in fact, miles from the nearest utility pole. It is truly wild, and over the years I have seen a lot of wildlife there, including dozens of moose, otters, bald eagles and osprey. The pond (technically it’s a fen) is too small for loons to nest on, but there is usually a loon or two using it for hunting and rest.

One morning, I was canoeing there, and as I made my way through a serpentine-like creek that feeds the pond, I noticed a sign attached to a tree. This is a strange place to see a sign, I thought, out here in the middle of nowhere and particularly this far down the creek.

As I got closer, I noticed it was a sign for the Nature Conservancy. I hadn’t really thought of it before, but some entity had to own the land that I enjoy visiting so much. In this case, obviously, it was land owned by the Nature Conservancy.

When you think of it, all land that we enjoy our nature watching, hiking, or any other outdoor recreational activity on is owned by someone or some thing. One of my favorite photos that I have taken is of a Baltimore oriole sipping nectar from a crab apple blossom. I took the photo many years ago in the spring on land owned by a local land trust. Without that land trust’s passion for conservation, I never would have gotten the opportunity to photograph the beautiful bird, and the land likely would have been a house, condominium complex, or strip mall.

Pretty much any photo or memory of the outdoors that I can think of will have a similar story. The land on which the photo was taken or the memory was made is owned by an entity that cares about land conservation and the importance of outdoor recreation. In many cases, the land is owned by a nonprofit organization that relies on philanthropy to support its mission.

Many people wait until December to make their charitable gifts for the year, and indeed, most of these organizations receive the bulk of their gifts at the end of the year. I certainly am not about to tell people how to spend their money, but if you are planning to make contributions to nonprofit organizations this year, I would encourage you to at least consider one of the many valuable conservation organizations out there. 

There are terrific conservation organizations at the international, national, state, and local levels. I am usually partial to the smaller state and local organizations, but all of these organizations are worthy of consideration. The Nature Conservancy, which I mentioned at the beginning of this column, is an international entity that has preserved land throughout the world.

I have been looking for years to purchase some land for camping and birdwatching but have been priced out of the market with the recent surge in real estate value. Land is expensive, finite and valuable. I am grateful for the organizations that understand the importance of outdoor recreation and keep their land available to the public. 

These organizations are certainly worthy of support.

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