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m2401 BC-MN-DNR-DeathDonation 12-27 0645

Even in death, Minn. wildlife lovers do their part

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — When Winton Hagstrom wasn’t riding the rails as a train engineer, he could often be found with a fishing line in the water or a hunting rifle in his hand.

That’s explains why in death — he died last year at age 86 — nature had a place in Hagstrom’s will. He left $215,000 to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to preserve open space for wildlife.

"You can’t take anything with you when you go," said Hagstrom’s nephew, David Hagberg. "He’s just giving back to the Earth and the next generation."

Hagstrom isn’t alone in leaving an environmental legacy gift. Bequests and potential donations could soon strain the main source of revenue the DNR uses to match the gifts.

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People and groups have contacted the DNR to inquire about how they can give a combined $10 million in proposed cash or land donations. It could come to fruition at any time during the next several years.

The DNR relies on critical-habitat license plate sales to match gifts. That program raises about $3.5 million each year.

DNR officials say the Legislature has supplemented plate sales in the past by special infusions of bond or lottery revenue. So the agency is welcoming all gifts.

"Generally we’re not in that first line of thought of who to leave money to," said DNR Commissioner Mark Holsten.

"It’s such a selfless act of giving," Holsten added. "It’s one way they can give back to that natural environment and back to the public."

Besides Hagstrom’s bequest, the DNR received another big gift recently. The estate of Len and Louise Swenson of Montevideo left the DNR $117,400 this year.

The death donations are part of an average of $1.5 million to $2 million a year in cash and land gifts the DNR gets each year. Most gifts come from people who are alive and from conservation organizations, said Kim Hennings, DNR Wildlife Land Acquisition Coordinator.

Hennings figures the DNR currently has $2 million available to match donations. That’s in addition to revenue coming from the license-plate sales, which cost vehicle owners $30 extra.

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Since 1986, the DNR has received nearly 30,000 acres of donated land valued at $33 million and $9.5 million in cash donations.

"There’s some tax benefit with a donation," Hennings said. "But mostly it’s people who have an interest in conservation."

At the Nature Conservancy, last wills and testaments account for nearly 40 percent of all donations received by the international conservation organization.

In Minnesota alone, 450 people have informed the group that it is included in their wills, said Sherrie Beal, the Nature Conservancy’s gift planning officer.

"Often times people refer back to their own childhood and that nature had a great influence on them," Beal said. "And now they’re really seeing the world change dramatically and they’re really concerned about the future of the natural world. And that’s what spurs those gifts."

The Swenson gift is being used by the DNR to purchase 80 acres to add to the Lac qui Parle wildlife management area. Scott Swenson’s parents left the money to be allocated by the survivors.

Swenson said the doubling effect of the DNR’s matching progam "was a large incentive." But Swenson said his dad’s passion for hunting in the area also made a difference.

To those who live in Montevideo, Lac qui Parle is "the place to go just like the Mall of America is to people who live in the cities."

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Information from: Star Tribune, http://www.startribune.com

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