Look for the loon on your tax form
Thanks to donations the state Endangered Species Act turns 40 and has a lot to celebrate.
Wisconsin's law safeguarding rare wildlife and plants turns 40 this year with eagles, trumpeter swans, osprey and gray wolves among the successful comebacks made under its protections.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and partners will highlight these successes and the people who helped make them possible. A web feature every month will showcase videos, slide shows and more to tell the stories, provide listings of events and places to see and learn about these species, and share how people can get involved in restoration efforts on the ground.
"Wisconsin has a lot to be proud of on this important anniversary," says DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp. "Some of our most beloved natural treasures are back from the brink, and we're leading the way with innovative approaches to safeguarding others. Our kids and grandkids will get to enjoy eagles soaring overhead thanks to the great work that DNR staff, partners and citizens have done together under the state's Endangered Species Act."
Efforts to safeguard rare wildlife and plants are supported in large part by private donations and by sales of endangered resources license plates. Each dollar from citizens who donate funds by checking a line on their income tax form or who make a direct contribution is matched by a dollar from the state's general purpose fund.
Getting citizens involved on the ground is another cornerstone. "Each year, citizens donate more than 300,000 hours of labor helping monitor wildlife populations," Stepp says. "That's an amazing number and it's why Wisconsin has some of the nation's longest running wildlife records – like the breeding bird survey and the frog and toad survey."
Wisconsin lawmakers passed the Endangered Species Act in 1971 and it became effective in 1972, a year before the federal Endangered Species Act was passed. Under the leadership of Ruth Hine, a zoologist who was chief of DNR research, information and publications, the agency developed the first list with 15 species on it.
Other keys to Wisconsin's success include the state's commitment to gathering up-to-date information on species and research that can suggest effective strategies for avoiding impacts to those rare species, efforts to protect habitat through incentives to private landowners, and acquiring land rich in rare species to become State Natural Areas.
The Endangered Resources Program relies on contributions for more than one-quarter of its budget and leads the way in preserving and managing over 200 endangered and threatened Wisconsin plants and animals and our finest remaining examples of prairies, forests and wetlands.
Lisa Gaumnitz is a the public affairs manager for DNR's Water Division.