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How is the Wildlife Diversity Program funded?

Iowa's Wildlife Diversity Program (WDP) budget is funded primarily by donations directly to the program or through donations to the Fish & Wildlife Trust Fund on state tax forms. No state general fund tax money is used. In spite of limited resources, the WDP has accomplished a great deal since its beginnings in 1981. 

Public events like Bluebird Workshops, Bald Eagle Appreciation Days, and Hawk Watches have been attended by thousands annually to learn more about the need for conservation of our bird life. The restoration of otters to our rivers, peregrine falcons to our urban skies, and trumpeter swans to our marshes are just some of the many projects that have helped increase wildlife diversity. 

The WDP has also conducted and funded vitally important research and survey projects that have provided valuable knowledge about the status and distribution of Iowa's breeding birds, eagles, hawks, frogs and toads, prairie butterflies and colonial nesting birds such as great blue herons. These projects help manage and protect these fragile species. A widely acclaimed series of publications on some of Iowa's less-appreciated residents has improved public awareness and understanding of snakes, frogs, turtles, salamanders and bats and their roles in maintaining a healthy ecosystem. A new Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Area and several Bird Conservation Areas have focused public attention on the need to provide large landscapes of suitable wildlife habitat.

Fish & Wildlife Fund | Chickadee Checkoff

Chickadee Checkoff

Iowa's General Assembly enacted the "Chickadee Checkoff" in 1981, as a means of providing more substantial funding to aid all wildlife in Iowa, but especially nongame species. It was this new funding source that actually cleared the way for establishing a nongame wildlife program in Iowa, today called the Wildlife Diversity Program. The checkoff has provided Iowans an opportunity to voluntarily donate a self-designated portion of their Iowa tax refund when completing their Iowa form 1040s. If tax payments are still due the state, filers may even add a donation amount to their outstanding tax bill.

Although still generally called the Chickadee Checkoff, today's Iowa 1040 just refers to the term "Fish/Wildlife" fund in Step 5 of the tax form. Even though tax form terminology has changed, contributions made on this line still are credited for work on non-game wildlife and are used to further conservation of nongame wildlife. Although checkoff revenues remain WDP's most important operations budget source, donations have fallen by 50% since 1979. The fund is now providing just ⅓ of what it takes to keep the program running, making it necessary to supplement the WDP with some DNR Fish and Wildlife Trust Fund revenues and other resources.

To learn more about the Fish/Wildlife contribution aka the chickadee checkoff visit

State Wildlife Grants

Since 2001, DNR's Wildlife Diversity Program has been the recipient of annual appropriations from Congress. Administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, these grants have provided critically needed funding for WDP projects. There are sometimes differences in each year's funding formula and in what kinds of projects are allowed.

Late in 2001, Congress provided grant funding to states through the Wildlife Conservation and Restoration Program, or WCRP. Federal dollars would fund 75% of each project submitted for approval, while Iowa DNR or its partners had to provide the remaining 25%. WCRP funds could be used for a wide variety of wildlife habitat projects, as well as for wildlife education and recreation-related activities. WCRP was to be a permanent, nongame title of the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act, but after 2001 was left unfunded. Work is underway by conservationists nationwide and in Washington DC to seek future permanent and stabilized funding for WCRP. One of the largest lobbying efforts was Teaming With Wildlife, a coalition of organizations and businesses that worked for over 20 years to put adequate funding for natural resources onto lawmaker's agendas. Teaming With Wildlife has been re-branded recently into the Alliance for America’s Fish and Wildlife following the recommendations of a Blue Ribbon Panel on wildlife funding.

More information: State Wildlife Grants

REAP License Plates

In 2005, the law which created Iowa's popular Natural Resource license plate, depicting a goldfinch and wild rose, was amended to increase the price somewhat and allow a portion of the revenues to go directly to the Wildlife Diversity Program. 

To help increase license plate sales, two additional designs were introduced, featuring a Bald Eagle and a Ring-necked Pheasant. Since then a White-tailed Deer and Brook Trout have joined the line-up. 

Like SWG funds, revenue from license plates is not intended to supplement the annual WDP operations budget, but instead is spent on special projects, especially those (like SWG) in need of state match money. This funding is some of the most important yet for Iowa's nongame wildlife resources. Because of this income, DNR has been able to establish a new system to inventory almost every variety of wildlife in the state, then monitor their numbers so that we might know what management techniques are critical for stabilizing or restoring populations of declining species.

Interested? Check out the REAP licenses plates and find out more information on how to buy.

License Plate, personalized

Nongame Support Certificate

2011 was the last year for the Nongame Support Certificate.

The Nongame Support Certificate was conceived in 1979 as the first means of funding projects to assist Iowa's non-hunted wildlife. Certificates were produced annually, each featuring a photograph of a bird, mammal, reptile, amphibian or butterfly. DNR staff originally provided the photos, but in later years the series featured photos by some of Iowa's best independent nature photographers. Prints were limited to 500 numbered editions annually and sold for $5 each.