Help the Wild in Iowa This Tax Season
by Guest Blogger on Monday, March 1, 2021
Guest blog by Stephanie Shepherd, Iowa DNR Wildlife Biologist. Stephanie has been a biologist with the Iowa DNR's Wildlife Diversity Program since 2005. She works on everything from Bald Eagles to Bumblebees and loves every minute of it.
Did you know you can make a difference for wildlife in Iowa while doing your taxes?? How is that possible? In the early 1980s, Iowa legislators realized that there was a hole in the funding provided to manage Iowa’s wildlife resources. Almost all of the funding available was directed towards to management of a handful of game species, but what about the thousands of wildlife species that can’t be hunted, fished or trapped? Species like the Bald Eagle and Peregrine Falcon, which were really struggling at the time.
Enter the “chickadee check-off” on the state’s tax form. Now called the “Fish/Wildlife Fund” on the tax form, it was the first check-off created, and it provided Iowans with a convenient way to donate part of their state tax refund to wildlife conservation. In practice, it led to the creation of the Wildlife Diversity Program at the DNR which is 100% focused on the management, study, and conservation of “non-game” species.
In those early years, the check-off brought in over $200,000 annually but with the addition of more check-offs, and more use of tax preparers and online programs, it has settled into an average of $145,000 in recent years. Despite staying steady around this dollar amount for a few years now, the number of people donating goes down every year. We’d love to see more awareness of the check-off because it is such an easy way to make a charitable contribution and 100% of the donation goes to wildlife conservation.
What does a donation support? It’s an incredibly important part of the Diversity Program’s budget and supports everything that we do! Over the years, this has included the restoration of Ospreys, Trumpeter Swans, Peregrine Falcons, Prairie-chickens and River Otters to the state. It has helped us launch the Multiple Species Inventory and Monitoring Program, the most complete wildlife inventory project of Iowa since the 1930s, and which has documented several new species to the state. It has helped us to be able to manage imperiled species such as Northern Long-eared Bats, Rusty-patched Bumblebees and Blanding’s Turtles through status surveys and research. We’ve published educational materials such as the Mammals of Iowa Guide and the Breeding Bird Atlas. Just to name a few things a donation can help with.
If you’re convinced, how can you donate? The check-off is on line 57 of the State Tax Form. It is near the end of the form and can be easily overlooked when working with a tax preparer or using an online application, so be vigilant! If every Iowa tax payer donated just $1, it would mean roughly $1.6 million annually for wildlife conservation efforts!
What if you missed donating on the tax form? You can also support Wildlife Diversity as well as the wonderful Resource Enhancement and Protection Program by buying a Natural Resources license plate for your car. Thank you for supporting wildlife in Iowa.