Pony up with your support

Published 10:32 pm Tuesday, November 22, 2016

By Susan and Biff Andrews

‘Tis the season — to give!

I’m sure you are as bombarded with pleas for holiday donations as are your neighbors — from the Food Bank, the Salvation Army, the United Way, the American Heart Association and on and on, ad infinitum.


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We in the wildlife and nature communities have our own set of entreaties from international, national, state and local charities and organizations, delivered through television, mailings and personal solicitation.

Have you seen the commercial on TV in which a huge mama elephant stands with a tiny baby, before the view switches to a stack of tusks and then to the baby, alone and sad? How about the “Tyger, Tyger” with his burning bright eyes and cuddly cubs who winds up as a rug with lonely cubs left behind?

They all ask for money — to “adopt” a baby pachyderm, tiger cub, baby seal or whatever. It’s the World Wildlife Fund (beware of the panda).

I can’t imagine their advertising budget and postal costs. Mind you, they do good work, protecting wildlife and chasing down poachers. But they don’t do that in my backyard.

The Nature Conservancy writes faithfully. They send calendars, stickers and greeting cards, all to solicit your holiday goodwill dollars. And they do protect nature in our back yard — at Big Piney Woods, on the Eastern Shore barrier islands and in the western part of the state.

They get my membership dollars every year, and I wish I could bequeath them a legacy. Even though they spend some of my money in Honduras and the Seychelles, they spend plenty of it right here in Virginia.

Then there are the big national groups that want your money, too. The National Wildlife Federation wants your support. And you’ll be happy to know that Ranger Rick turns 50 this year.

You might think that Ducks Unlimited wants your money for shotgun shells to shoot wildfowl, but they are one of the oldest and largest protectors of wildlife habitat in our history. Better habitat equals more ducks equals better hunting.

Similarly the Izaak Walton League of America is a national force for good in preserving water quality and certain fish species. And the Coastal Conservancy does the same on saltwater.

Which brings us to our state’s solicitors. There’s “Virginia Wildlife,” with its beautiful photography and artwork (Bless you, Spike Knuth).

There are the Chesapeake Bay Foundation folks. They do good work for our state regularly and deserve our support. The eel grass in the Bay testifies to their efforts.

The Virginia Cooperative Extension Office sponsors two groups — the Virginia Master Gardeners and the Virginia Master Naturalists (our group) — but asks that their participants pay their own way. These two groups must be responsible for hundreds of thousands of volunteer hours, saving the state millions.

And at the very local level are the clubs that want your money in dues, along with your participation.

Local fishing clubs like the Tidewater Anglers, Virginia Beach Anglers and the Portsmouth Anglers’ Club all have dues to pay, but they do good works. They take under-privileged kids fishing. They work to clean local waters and beaches.

The NRPA solicits donations from corporations, but their members, too, must give from their own pockets. And the work they do in educating the next generation of environmentally conscious young-uns is invaluable.

In short, wildlife people and organizations want your donations. And it’s the giving time of year, so pony up. The next time you look at the Bay, at the river, at the Eastern Shore, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you helped preserve, protect and defend them.

Susan and Bradford “Biff” Andrews are retired teachers and master naturalists who have been outdoor people all their lives, exploring and enjoying the woods, swamps, rivers and beaches throughout the region for many years. Email them at b.andrews22@live.com.