Lynn Rogers, 71, a retired U.S. Forest Service researcher, chairs two tax-exempt organizations in Ely -- the Wildlife Research Institute and the North American Bear Center.

The institute is Rogers' bear research vehicle and employs him and researcher Sue Mansfield. Each draws a $30,000 salary, according to its federal tax return.

The institute had revenue of $152,436 last year, mostly from three-day Black Bear Field Courses. Classes cost $2,000 and are limited to eight people. The 10 classes for 2011 filled in 28 minutes, with a waiting list of 1,184 people.

The Bear Center had revenue of $565,629 in 2008, according to tax records. Though Rogers chairs the museum-like structure, which opened in 2007, he draws no salary. Neither does Mansfield. Its highest salaried employee in 2008 was paid just over $14,000. Many of its workers are volunteers.

The Bear Center was built with private funds, the majority -- $1,060,000 -- of which was lent to it by Rogers, according to tax filings. Rogers said the center was his dream, and he and his wife mortgaged "everything we own" to build it. The loan is being repaid, with interest, by the center.

In 2009, the Bear Center had 27,000 visitors. It has had 6,000 more visitors so far this year than last. Donations to both groups were minimal in 2009. This year, Rogers said, nearly $400,000 has been contributed via , including a $100,000 gift. The research institute ( so far this year has received about $24,000. Last year, the website had 467,000 visitors. This year, it's on track for as many as 12 million visitors.