The Nature Conservancy announced today that it has received $1.8 million to help conserve the common loon, the official state bird of Minnesota. The gift from the late Iva Weir is one of the largest donations benefiting a single species the Conservancy has ever received in Minnesota.
“Iva Weir was a longtime member who believed in our mission of conserving our lands and waters to protect nature and preserve life,” said Peggy Ladner, director of The Nature Conservancy in Minnesota. “We are overwhelmed by her incredible generosity. People can make a difference in this world in any number of ways. Iva’s legacy will be to help conserve two things Minnesotans love most about our state—our lakes and our loons.”
The Conservancy is using the gift to help conserve more than 1,000 acres at its Lake Alexander and Ordway/Glacial Lakes projects sites in Central Minnesota that provide loon habitat and to cover land management and conservation planning expenses related to the protection of loon habitat. The Conservancy will also use some of the gift for future purchases and projects on Minnesota lands and waters critical to loons.
Weir was born in Moorhead in 1921 and grew up in Bemidji. She graduated from Bemidji State College in 1945 and taught in International Falls before moving to Oregon, where she continued her career as a school teacher until she retired in 1984.
Weir resided in Corvallis, Oregon at the time of her death in April 2006.
Chris Weir-Koetter, Iva’s niece and a resident of Bemidji, said that her aunt often returned to Minnesota and enjoyed watching loons because they represented what she loved most about her home state.
“She was always thrilled to see loons,” said Weir-Koetter, who often took her aunt out on the water in her canoe to see and hear loons. “They were a symbol of northern Minnesota for her. That was her childhood home.”
“She was very much in tune with the value of natural systems and loons were of special interest to her. Our family is very proud of Iva's donation.”
Common loons are migratory birds that breed throughout central and northeast Minnesota each summer. Their preferred habitat during the breeding season is lakes and rivers in forested areas.
The biggest threats to common loons in Minnesota are shoreline development, water quality degradation and human disturbance, which can cause adults to abandon their nests, leaving their eggs and chicks vulnerable to predation.
The common loon is also known for its wailing call, which naturalist John Muir said was “one of the wildest and most striking of all wilderness sounds.”
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.