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December 2009 cover image Birdwatching at San Bernard River National Wildlife refuge

Shopping with Heart

Support conservation when you buy holiday gifts.

By Melissa Gaskill

Put your shopping dollars to work supporting wildlife and natural habitat around the state. Conservation commerce — the idea of selling appropriate merchandise to raise conservation funds — is catching on, and the products listed here directly support programs in Texas. We’ve provided just a sampling, so keep your eyes open for more.

Clay Turtles

Residents in the Mexican village of Tepejuahes, a community historically dependent on sea turtle poaching, now create a variety of handmade ceramics, from incense and candleholders to coin banks and wine chillers. The ceramics provide alternative income to villagers and, therefore, help protect the turtles, which also nest in Texas. Look for the items at Sea Turtle Inc. on South Padre Island and the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, where the wine chillers are particularly popular. Sea Turtle Inc. also sells turtle charms carved from coconut shells that wash up on the nesting beaches. www.seaturtleinc.org or www.gpz.org

Local Honey

The LEED Gold-certified store at Trinity River Audubon Center near downtown Dallas sells Extra Virgin Zipcode Honey, produced locally by the Texas Honeybee Guild. Community gardens and wild areas supply guild owners Brandon and Susan Pollard’s bees with the flowers necessary to create honey. The Pollards even installed hives on the center grounds. All sales at the shop help support the center, part of the largest urban hardwood forest in the United States.www.trinityriveraudubon.org

Wildlife Photographs

Color photographs of Texas wildlife and landscapes fill the pages of Images for Conservation Fund Book One, The Texas Hill Country and Book Two, Coastal Bend of Texas. Sold in select bookstores and on the ICF website, the books support the organization’s efforts to promote conservation on private lands through photography contests, says ICF founder John Martin. The growth of nature photography into a $4 billion industry is changing land management, says Sally Crofutt, manager of Fennessey Ranch, a first-place winner. The ranch made more money from wildlife photography than from cattle in 2008, she adds, and no longer shoots coyotes or even rattlesnakes. www.imagesforconservation.org

Bracelets and Buttons

The Houston Zoo’s conservation bracelets support its Texas programs protecting the Houston toad, Attwater’s prairie-chicken, black bears, diamondback terrapins and sea turtles. Last year, the items raised around $25,000, says Peter Riger, director of conservation. “These make unique gifts, a keepsake that will remind you of wildlife conservation or a specific animal down the road.” All of the zoo’s gift shop sales help support conservation efforts. www.houstonzoo.org

Special Plates

Texas drivers can purchase horned lizard license plates to help fund projects under the Texas Wildlife Action plan, bluebonnet plates to support state parks, white-tailed deer plates for wildlife management and research, or largemouth bass plates to fund neighborhood fishing and world record programs. Ducks Unlimited plates benefit wetland habitat and the waterfowl that live in it.www.conservationplate.org

Join, Adopt

Many conservation organizations provide membership gift packets. Those working in Texas include The Nature Conservancy, National Wildlife Federation and Audubon Society. Some groups also offer “adoptions” of an animal. Adopt a turtle through Padre Island National Seashore’s sea turtle recovery program to net a certificate, pin and bumper sticker packaged suitably for gift giving. Order by phone, 361-949-8068 or at www.nps.gov/pais. At Sea Turtle Inc., adopt a resident turtle, a hatchling or a nest of turtle eggs, which includes a phone call invitation to the hatchlings’ release. Order at www.seaturtleinc.org; click on “adopt a hatchling.” Bat Conservation International mails bat adopters a certificate, a color photo, species information and a bumper sticker. Order at www.batcon.org

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