Interested in avoiding crowded stores? Need a little help locating one-of-a-kind gifts? Like gifts that support Michigan’s wildlife, natural resources or history programs?

If any of those scenarios sounds like you, consider turning to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for several gift-giving ideas sure to satisfy the outdoor/nature enthusiast or history buff on your shopping list.

With the growth in online shopping for the holidays – projections for 2012 say shoppers in the United States will spend upwards of $55 million buying their holiday gifts online, an increase of nearly 17 percent over last year – the DNR has two online options to help shoppers find that perfect gift.

The state of Michigan’s eStore (www.michigan.gov/estore) boasts unique items that speak to Michigan’s rich history and outdoor traditions. 

Bring a little outdoors inside with color prints of Michigan wildlife in natural settings; a collectible poster celebrating the 50th anniversary of the mighty Mackinac Bridge; or a variety of intricately sewn patches depicting some of our state’s most treasured species, including the Karner blue butterfly, the box turtle and the piping plover.

Camping fans on your list will likely feel good about items that provide direct support to Michigan’s nationally recognized state parks. In need of stocking stuffers? Consider state park stainless-steel water bottles and travel mugs, T-shirts, or state park gift certificates that can be redeemed for camping or mooring fees or merchandise at state parks. (The gift certificates can only be redeemed if making camping reservations through the DNR call center, and cannot be redeemed through the online reservation system.)

Not sure what to get? The eStore also makes it simple to make a tax-deductible contribution in the name of that hard-to-shop-for person or in memory of a loved one’s passion for the outdoors. Donations can be made to Michigan’s State Park Fund, Sportsmen Against Hunger or the Nongame Fish and Wildlife Fund.

With the holiday release of Steven Spielberg’s new film about Abraham Lincoln, there is a keen interest in America’s 16th president. Many folks are unaware that Lincoln had Michigan connections, but the book Seeking Lincoln in Michigan: A Remembrance Trail traces those links and makes a nice gift for history enthusiasts. This book, along with Michigan Remembers Lincoln– a compilation of articles about Lincoln by Michigan writers – is available at the eStore.

The DNR offers more online options at www.seekingmichigan.org, a website operated by the Michigan History Foundation in cooperation with the Archives of Michigan (part of the Michigan Historical Center, an agency within the DNR). Seeking Michigan is a treasure trove of great gift ideas for anyone on your list interested in Michigan history, offering finds that simply aren’t available anywhere else. (At the website, click Buy and then explore the Collections and Prints menus.)

Among the more popular products are the Proud Robin line of notecards, mugs, prints and T-shirts. The “Proud Robin” was the official logo of Michigan week in 1958. This stylized American robin, the state bird of Michigan, standing atop the Mackinac Bridge with his puffed-out chest makes for clever gifts for Michiganders far and wide.

Items at Seeking Michigan highlight the collection at the Archives of Michigan. There are notecards and drink coasters that feature the state’s iconic trout stamps. The trout stamp program started in 1948 to generate revenue for the then Department of Conservation’s Fisheries Division. It ended in 1996. A competition was held each year to choose a professionally illustrated trout stamp. These miniature works of art now are perfect for the angler on your list, particularly the fly-fisherman.

Michigan’s beer-crafting scene is gaining ground with new microbrews each year. Back in the post-prohibition days of beer and wine making in Michigan, the state’s Commerce Commission required makers to register their brewery labels. This practice was discontinued in the 1950s, but the colorful labels of the era now adorn T-shirts, archive-quality prints and pint glasses that can be easily ordered for the beer aficionados in your life.

Jigsaw puzzles can help pass the time on blustery winter days or rainy afternoons at the lake. Seeking Michigan offers a series of beautiful, 500-piece puzzles showcasing historic Michigan, with everything from 19th-century maps of the state and architectural drawings of lighthouses to brewery labels and trout stamps.

Another unique gift possibility for the person who has it all is a sponsorship of one of Michigan’s Civil War battle flags. The flags reside in a special storage room at the Michigan Historical Center, and most are in a very fragile condition and require specialized care to preserve.

The flags were important symbols of pride to the units who carried them, often made by the women in the towns where those units left to go to war. For $250, you can purchase a permanent sponsorship for a flag. Sponsorship includes permanent donor recognition on the flags’ website and a 24-inch-by-36-inch archival color print of the flag. Each donation aids with the preservation work on the flags and will help the historical center provide online access to the flags for school children and researchers. This is a truly memorable gift for Civil War buffs.

If there were iron miners in your family, you may want to consider honoring their contributions with the purchase of an Iron Ore Heritage Plaque. Each plaque (ranging in size from 5 inches by 2.5 inches to 10 inches by 10 inches) includes the name of the miner, his or her profession, and the range or community in which the miner worked. Larger plaques (minimum 5 x 5 size) will include a photograph of the honored individuals. The plaques will be placed as part of a long-term exhibit at the Michigan Iron Industry Museum, in Negaunee, in tribute to the miners and their families. Learn more by calling 906-475-7857 or visiting www.michigan.gov/ironindustrymuseum.

For a bricks-and-mortar experience, stop by the Michigan Historical Museum’s gift shop the next time you’re in the downtown Lansing area.

Located on the first floor of the Michigan Library and Historical Center (702 W. Kalamazoo St.), the gift shop carries an array of Michigan-themed items, including trays to make ice cubes shaped like the Mitten state, Michigan oven mitts, jewelry made from Michigan copper and also Petoskey stones, copper coins and bars, and Petoskey stone drink coasters. The shop also carries embroidered apparel, including the “Free High Fives” Michigan shirts and sweatshirts, and several books on Michigan history and places.

The museum gift shop is open seven days a week – 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Saturdays and 1 to 5 p.m. on Sundays. After tackling the holiday shopping, visitors are invited to make a day of it at the museum’s new special exhibit – Put It on Paper. For more information about the museum, go to www.michigan.gov/museum.

Image courtesy Michigan DNR

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