Flying squirrel research garners Golden Turkey nomination

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When they tell you we can’t afford to “fully fund” schools, house the homeless, and take care of grandma in the nursing home, just respond with these three words: flying squirrel research. That’s right. Minnesota state government spent the entire $17.6 billion surplus, raised taxes an additional $9 billion, and still had $186,000 left over to study flying squirrels.

Specifically, the legislature sent $186,000 from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund (ENRTF) to the Natural Resources Research Institute in Duluth “to determine current distribution and habitat associations of northern and southern flying squirrels to fill key knowledge gaps in flying squirrel status in Minnesota.”

Forget the education achievement gap — the flying squirrel knowledge gap has been plaguing Minnesota for decades and must be addressed with this groundbreaking research. It turns out southern flying squirrels have been migrating farther and farther north every year and researchers in Duluth have a hypothesis about the cause: climate change.

Climate change! You’ve said the magic words. Please pass Go and collect your $200. In order to save the planet from the impending doom of global warming, we must study the migration habits of flying squirrels in northern Minnesota.

Funding for this project is just one example of hundreds from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund, a frequent target for the Golden Turkey committee. Past nominees include giving homeowners $350 grants to not grow grass in their yards, a $1,000 grant for a woman to host a hands-on climate-mapping workshop where participants create maps of their personal emotional terrain of climate change, and $250 million to find a noise that will deter bald eagles from flying into windmills. The ENTRF is the gift that keeps on giving (with your money) to the Golden Turkey committee.

As with many things in state government, flying squirrel research began with a small pilot program ($7,500). This year’s $186,000 grant will fund the expansion into big-time research at UMD. Soon we’ll have an entire academic department dedicated to small mammal research with a dozen employees.   

You don’t have to waste millions or billions of dollars to qualify for a Golden Turkey award. In fact, sometimes it’s the smaller projects that infuriate us the most. For this reason, flying squirrel research at the University of Minnesota Duluth is nominated for a Golden Turkey award.

To vote for your choice for the 2023 Golden Turkey award, click here.