MNA’s Guide to Gifts for Nature – Part III

IRA Charitable Rollover

mna logo with red bow

You can give to nature and take advantage of a special tax treat for the year-end giving season with the IRA Charitable Rollover. But it must be done soon to count for 2017.
 
Here’s how it works:
  • People age 70 1/2 or older can make IRA transfer gifts tax-free to the Michigan Nature Association, a qualified charity;
  • Gifts of up to $100,000 qualify when IRA assets are transferred directly to the Charity;
  • Directly transferred gifts count towards the required minimum distributions you must take annually from your traditional IRAs, but aren’t included in your adjusted gross income and therefore are not counted as taxable income;
  • For married couples, each spouse can transfer up to $100,000 from their IRA.
A recent article in U.S. News & World Report, “How to Donate Your Required Minimum Distribution to Charity,” provides an excellent overview. But time for a qualifying gift for the 2017 tax year is running out. Transfers must be complete by December 31, 2017 for this tax year. To make a qualifying gift to MNA for the 2017 tax year we encourage you to contact your IRA administrator while there is still time.
 
Thanks for considering MNA in your year-end giving.
 
Happy Holidays!
 
Garret Johnson
Garret Johnson
Executive Director 
 
P.S. Don’t forget, transfers must be made by December 31, 2017 to qualify for this tax year.
 
Watch for more giving ideas throughout the month!

Donate today at michigannature.org!

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What’s the Scoop with Michigan’s Soil?

By Michelle Ferrell, MNA Intern

Though not always the most celebrated components of a landscape, soils are certainly one of the most important. While plants form the basis of habitats, soils are central in determining which plants can grow where. Consequently, the soil/s of an ecosystem can drastically affect wildlife communities. Soils also play a critical role in filtering fresh water, and have served as the very foundations of civilization. How much do you know about the marvel beneath your feet?

kalkaska sand

Kalkaska sand. Photo: Randall Schaetzl.

In 1990, Michigan declared Kalkaska sand as its official state soil. It’s relatively infertile owing to its acidic nature, but nonetheless abundant. Despite being one of over 500 soils present in Michigan, Kalkaska sand, so named for one of the 29 counties in which it is present, covers nearly 5% of the state. It can be found in the upper half of the lower peninsula, as well as most of the upper peninsula; but just how did it get there?

The movement of glaciers shaped Michigan’s soils over the course of hundreds of thousands of years into what is known as glacial till. Read more about the process here. In the time since, our soils have undergone many changes to provide support for forests, wetlands, prairies, dunes, swamps, and human agriculture alike. In fact, if not for Kalkaska sand, the coniferous forests of northern Michigan may not exist.

Many of the evergreens that grow in our northern forests, including our ever-important state tree (white pine), are adapted to highly acidic, dry, and nutrient-poor conditions. As such, they rely on otherwise infertile soils like Kalkaska sand. The rare Kirtland’s warbler breeds exclusively in jack pine, and many other well-known species depend upon plant communities derived from Kalkaska sand. In a very real way, we have this unique soil to thank for the natural landscape as we know it today.

kirtlands warbler - cindy mead

Kirtland’s warbler in a jack pine forest. Photo: Cindy Mead.

Triple Your Impact

Hurry before the 2015 tax year is over!

There is still time to make your tax-deductible gift for 2015 and have your donation matched two-to-one.

Thanks to generous anonymous donors, all gifts to MNA of $35 or more will be matched, two-to-one, up to $5,000. That means your $35 gift generates $105 for the protection of Michigan’s natural heritage.

And, it gets better!

If you enroll in our Monthly Protector Program the match increases to three-to-one, up to $1,000, and you can quadruple your impact!

MNA’s Monthly Protector Program is a convenient way to help protect Michigan’s natural heritage and spread your gift out over a period of time. By authorizing MNA to automatically charge your credit card or checking account an amount of your choice ($10 minimum) every month, you provide sustainable support to help MNA acquire, protect, and maintain critical habitat for rare, threatened, and endangered species throughout the year.

Send your year-end gift in the mail today, make a secure donation online, or give us a call at (866) 223-2231.

Thank you for all that you do to help MNA build a brighter future for Michigan!

Celebrate Earth Day with MNA

April 22, 2015 marks Earth Day’s 45th anniversary. To celebrate, MNA will be hosting special hikes! Join us for a guided nature hike or other activity to explore the best Michigan has to offer!

Dowagiac Woods Nature Sanctuary. Photo by Dick Glosenger.

Dowagiac Woods Nature Sanctuary. Photo by Dick Glosenger.

Join us for one of these special Earth Day hikes:

Monday, April 20: Earthweek Hike at Five Lakes Muskegon Nature Sanctuary (Muskegon County) 

In partnership with the Muskegon Area Earthweek group, MNA will host two hikes at Five Lakes Muskegon Nature Sanctuary in Muskegon County. The hikes will begin at both 2:30 pm and 5 pm. All are welcome! For more information or to sing up, contact John Bagley at jbagley@michigannature.org

Wednesday, April 22: Earth Day Hike at Dowagiac Woods Nature Sanctuary (Cass County)

Come celebrate Earth Day at the spring wildflower mecca of Dowagiac Woods Nature Sanctuary! This event begins at 4:30 p.m. and will be a combination wildflower hike and stewardship opportunity. As we hike, we will pull invasive garlic mustard along the trail to help maintain the sanctuary. Contact John Bagley at jbagley@michigannature.org for details or to sign up.

Let Earth Day inspire you to make a difference in your community. Join MNA for one of these volunteer days that happen to fall right around Earth Day:

Saturday, April 18: Coldwater River Plant Preserve (Kent County) 

Help sanctuary steward Patricia Pennell keep this beautiful floodplain forest and the amazing wildflowers in good health by pitching in to control garlic mustard. The event starts at 9:30 a.m. For details, contact John Bagley at jbagley@michigannature.org.

Friday, April 24: Frances Broehl Memorial No. 1 (Lenawee County)

Enjoy the beautiful woods, Wolf Creek, and spring wildflowers as you help pull invasive garlic mustard. This event begins at 10 a.m. For details, contact Rachel Maranto at rmaranto@michigannature.org

If you can’t make it to any of these events, keep an eye on MNA’s calendar of events for additional volunteer opportunities and nature hikes. Happy Earth Day! 

Winter Lovers: Dark Eyed Junco

By Stephanie Bradshaw, MNA Volunteer

Dark-eyed Junco  © Gary Mueller, MO, Rolla, February 2007

Dark-eyed Junco
© Gary Mueller, MO, Rolla, February 2007

It might be surprising that anyone would love the cold and snow of a Michigan winter, but it is the perfect climate for the Dark Eyed Junco. As the Robin is a symbol of the coming Spring, the Dark Eyed Junco could be called a symbol of winter. A type of sparrow slightly bigger than the ordinary house finch, Michiganders will often see these gray birds with white undersides at their feeders but only with a backdrop of snow. The slate-colored breed is the type of Junco that people in the Eastern states see only in the winter months. Dark-eyed Juncos can be found throughout the United States and Canada at different seasons. They are one of the most common birds in North America with an estimated population of 630 million individuals.

Why does the Junco appear only in the winter?             

Juncos, like many other birds, migrate “South” for the winter months; however, lower Michigan is their South. These little birds live in Canada for the rest of the year and come down to lower parts of America only in the winter. Juncos are commonly found in coniferous and deciduous forests, but during winter migration they may journey to woodlands and fields.

Where do Juncos build their nests?

Juncos prefer their nests lower to the ground: in a depression, rock ledge, or roots of upturned trees. However, these birds easily adapt, and around people they may place their nest in or under buildings, in window ledges, flower pots, or light fixtures. The females weave the nests out of pine needles, grass, and sometimes small twigs. The birds may incorporate mosses, hairs, and leaves into the nests as well. They rarely reuse nests, so they will build a new nest at each of their destinations.

What do Juncos eat?

Seeds of chickweed, buckwheat, lamb’s quarters, and sorrel are the Juncos’ favorites. At the feeders they will pick out the millet and leave the sunflower seeds. They also eat insects such as beetles, moths, butterflies, caterpillars, ants, wasps, and flies.

If you see a Junco, be sure to say hello and enjoy his presence because when it starts to warm up he will be heading North in search of cooler regions.

Did you see any Juncos this winter? 

Bird counts, trails, and air pollution studies: this week in environmental news

Each week, MNA gathers news stories from around Michigan and the United States related to conservation and the environment. Here is some of what happened this week in environmental news:

The proposed route of the Iron Belle Trail. Image: Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Birders break records for Great Backyard Bird Count (Michigan Radio): Citizen scientists participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count logged 5,090 species this winter, about half the bird species in the world. The bitter cold this winter impacted the bird count, with fewer submissions this year, but still a record number of species were logged by those who did venture out.

Mich. Legislature approves $2M for Ironwood-Detroit trail, plus local projects (WDIO): The Michigan Legislature approved $24.7 million in spending on 69 recreational projects around Michigan, including funding for the Iron Belle Trail from Ironwood to Belle Isle in Detroit. This will connect several existing trails from Detroit to the western Upper Peninsula with two  distinct routes, one for bicycling and one for hiking.

Children’s lung health improves as air pollution is reduced, study says (The New York Times): A new study published in The New England Journal of Medicine shows that reducing air pollution leads to improved respiratory function in children ages 11 to 15. The study was conducted over 17 years by researchers at the University of Southern California, measuring air pollution levels as they declined in five regional communities and breathing capacity in 2,120 schoolchildren from those communities.

Several local sightings prove bald eagles making comeback (The Oakland Press): Residents in Oakland County have reported seeing bald eagles in their communities recently. Experts say the eagles may not be as rare as some people think; there are approximately 800 bald eagles in Michigan. At Stoney Creek Metropark, bald eagles have been nesting since early 2013, and residents have reported seeing eagles in Highland Township and Waterford Township.

MNA Looks Back on a Remarkable 2014

2014 has been an incredibly important and successful year for MNA! It’s impossible for one blog post to do justice to the amazing work of our staff and volunteers, but we’ve compiled a few highlights from throughout the year. Click on the images to enlarge and scroll through the gallery:

Check out out MNA’s 2014 Year in Review publication for more details about our progress in 2014. 

Thank you for making this a year to remember! If you’d like to support MNA, you can become a member or make a tax-deductible contribution.