Every year, North’s organization lobbies lawmakers to keep wildlife funding from being cut. The federal government allocates $67.5 million a year, dispersed among 50 states, to monitor, track and study endangered species and their habitats. North Carolina’s share is $1.3 million. The money employs a team of 25 biologists to look after the state’s endangered species, like loggerhead sea turtles, pelicans, peregrine falcons, green salamanders and, of course, the Carolina Northern flying squirrels.
“Without the State Wildlife Grants program, it is safe to say these projects might not exist,” said North. “The more money our government appropriates the more biologists and experts we can get out here on a regular basis to determine where these habitats are.”
North isn’t alone in his efforts. The Wildlife Federation has amassed 140 other organizations in the state under the Teaming With Wildlife Coalition that also support more funding for wildlife conservation. But their job is about to get a lot harder.
The federal government is changing the way it passes out money. In the past, states had to match to get the federal money at a 1 to 3 ratio. Under the new formula, states will have to come up with an equal match. If the state can’t or won’t come up with the extra money, federal dollars to the state will be cut and work such as Kelly’s could be in jeopardy.
There are two ways the public can help, North said. One is volunteering. Every hour logged by a volunteer counts as $14 in matching funds. Simply tagging along with Kelly for a day, carrying her ladder and writing down data as she measures the squirrels, can rack up $100 in matching funds through volunteer hours. As does building flying squirrel boxes to replace worn and weathered ones.
You can also help by checking off the box on your state tax return labeled “N.C. Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Fund.” Pick the amount to donate and it goes directly to the salaries of biologist who monitor the endangered species and their habitats.