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Last year, roughly 7,500 out of 1.6 million Iowa taxpayers helped boost wildlife conservation with donations to the Fish and Wildlife Fund on their state income tax form. Despite a steady increase in the total number of tax returns since 2009, the number of donations has stayed roughly the same since 2010.
Iowans donated roughly $132,000 last spring when completing their 2015 tax forms, with an average gift of $17.50 per donor.
“We are thankful that funding has remained steady. However, there is still plenty of opportunity to increase funding levels which go directly to habitat development and restoration programs for some of Iowa’s most vulnerable animal species, so the funds are very important for natural resources,” said Stephanie Shepherd, wildlife biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Diversity program.
The Fish and Wildlife Fund, known popularly as the “Chickadee Check-off,” is a mechanism the Iowa Legislature created in the 1980s for Iowa citizens to donate to wildlife conservation on the Iowa state tax form. Before this time, so called non-game wildlife had no dedicated funding. At its height, Iowans donated more than $200,000 annually to the fund.
Why the decline in contributions? Shepherd’s not sure, but tax payers do need to be alert when filling out their form or working with a tax preparer, she said.
“It is an inconspicuous line that is easy to pass over or forget, and many tax preparers may not remember to ask whether a client wants to donate,” Shepherd said. “It may be up to the taxpayer to remind their preparer, or make a point of looking for it whether they are doing their form on paper or electronically.”
As with all charitable contributions, the amount is deductible from next year’s taxes.
Proceeds from the check-off are one of the few means of support for the Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Diversity program, responsible for protecting more than 1,000 fish and wildlife species in the state. Money from the Check-off helps improve wildlife habit, restore native wildlife, provide opportunities for citizens to learn about our natural resources and much more.