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Nature’s Best By Elma Chapman - Gifts

It’s that time of year again when people are panicking about finding the perfect gift for everyone. And yet, most of us have too much “stuff” already, but nonetheless it’s the season’s demand that everyone get something. But maybe a “thing” isn’t necessary.

How about giving an experience? An annual pass to the state parks is a good deal. See the Indiana DNR website for ordering information. While you’re there, check out the Outdoor Indiana magazine. It’s a great deal at a low price. It has information on the state parks, staff, events, and flora and fauna in our state. The magazine comes every other month and one of the summer issues includes a calendar for the following year, featuring photographs from around the state and with information on hunting seasons, when to look for returning migrant birds, and special park events.

Is there a birdwatcher on your list? Think about a gift membership to the Audubon Society. Or the National Wildlife Federation for the animal lover. There are also gift memberships in groups like ACRES Land Trust or The Nature Conservancy. How about a bird feeder and a supply of sunflower seed or thistle seed? Yes, it’s “stuff,” but it gets used up pretty fast. Nottawa Wild Bird Supply north of Sturgis or Nature Unlimited in Topeka can help choose an appropriate feeder for your location and the right seed for the feeder you choose.

If you’re looking for a bigger ticket item, there’s always a bird spotting scope or a pair of binoculars. A less expensive gift could be a field guide for identifying birds, insects, mammals, trees, wildflowers – you name it, there’s probably a field guide for it.

Does someone you know like to hike? A backpack with a water bottle would be a good choice, and a handcrafted walking stick is something special and practical. For a small donation, the Arbor Day Foundation will plant a tree or trees in celebration of a special person or event, and you get a certificate to give the honoree.

What about kids? Ranger Rick and Your Big Back Yard magazines by the National Wildlife Federation can help to foster an awareness of the natural world in a child. The NWF also has symbolic adoptions: you make a donation to “adopt” an animal and you receive information about that animal, a certificate of your “adoption” and a plush toy of that species.

A really low-cost project would be to create your own set of “coupons” for outings, redeemable by the recipient. For example: “This coupon entitles the bearer to a picnic at Maple Wood at a mutually agreed time.” You could make one up for each of the county parks, good for a hike, picnic, swim, fishing trip, whatever. The benefits accrue not only to the recipient, but also for the giver: fresh air, a relaxing day in nature, and time spent with family or a friend – the best gift of all! You could also include a trip to a zoo, a nature preserve, or a state or national park.

Giving an experience has the added advantage of not needing wrapping paper and ribbon – an additional cost and waste that too often ends in a landfill. Ecotourism gets you to a place of interest, usually accompanied by one or more naturalists, and you get to see the animals in their natural setting. Usually the cost includes some money to support the habitat you are visiting. But if you are adamant that your person needs something to open and hold, you could order something from an environmental organization. The National Wildlife Federation and The Nature Conservancy both have online gift shops. There may be a slightly higher cost than running to your local big box store, but that extra cost goes to benefit the organization and its work for conservation.

I hope I’ve given you some ideas for the holidays and for birthdays, anniversaries and other special occasions throughout the year. And of course, you can always “treat” yourself! Happy holidays!