Paul Austin

Paul Austin is the director of Conservation Minnesota, a statewide non-profit. In that role, he gets to hear and share Minnesotan’s stories about our lakes, lands and way of life. Paul’s past lives include election as a small town mayor, serving at the US Agency for International Development, and managing a small marketing firm. He lives in Minneapolis with his wife, two small children and one very large dog.

Trumpeter Swans Triumph

Posted by: Paul Austin Updated: May 4, 2012 - 9:15 AM


Trumpeter Swans Triumph
As the political rhetoric seems to become more intensely divisive as the session winds to a close and campaign season begins, if either side is looking for an example of political wisdom that crosses all party lines, they need look no further than the majestic Trumpeter Swan.

The story of the state’s Trumpeter Swan population is a true political success story of which everyone can be proud.

Hunted to extinction in this state within a few decades of our statehood, the swan population nationwide dwindled to the point where in the mid 1930s, there were less than 70 left in the entire lower 48; all of which resided in Southwest Montana. 
With the creation of the Nongame Wildlife Check off in 1980, the state suddenly had a new tool to help fund projects such as the re-introduction of the Trumpeter Swan.  The program allows taxpayers to make a donation as a part of their tax preparation to fund nongame wildlife projects.  Annually around 3 percent of taxpayers make a donation.  The average donation is around $17 and each year, this is enough to earn the program around $1 million in revenue with which to work.
  Carrol Henderson
   Carrol Henderson with a Trumpeter Swan. 
The DNR supervisor of the program is Carrol Henderson, a lifelong birdwatcher who has won numerous local and national awards for his conservation efforts.  In 1996, Henderson received permission to travel to Alaska to collect eggs from their healthy flock of 10,000 swans to bring 50 back to Minnesota.  The eggs were incubated and hatched in the Carlos Avery Wildlife Management Area and in 1987, and 21 two-year old swans were brought to the Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge near Detroit Lakes.  They were released in May so they had a chance to acclimate before molting and taking their first flights in July. 
In the 25 years since, the swan population has rebounded to the point that now there are an estimated 6,000 swans that call Minnesota home. 

Carrol Henderson will be in Detroit Lakes this summer for the 25th anniversary of the release of the first swans into the Tamarac Refuge.  He will speak about the history of the re-introduction of the birds, present activities around maintaining the health of the state’s flock and what future efforts may be undertaken to ensure long-term stability. 

Henderson’s presentation at the annual Festival Of Birds will be one of the highlights of the Legacy Destination Weekend that will be taking place over the weekend of May 19-21.  Several birding trips that are part of the festival will visit lands protected with funding from the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment.

This is the second year of the Legacy Weekends, which were created in partnership with Conservation Minnesota, The Minnesota Citizens For The Arts and Explore Minnesota to draw attention to the good work being done around the state with proceeds of the Legacy Amendment.  For more details and other events taking place during the Legacy Destination Weekend visit


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