Pella Chronicle

February 1, 2013

Iowa taxpayers increase donations to wildlife in 2012

By Steve Woodhouse
The Chronicle

Knoxville — More than 8,000 Iowa taxpayers helped wildlife conservation last year by making a donation to the Fish and Wildlife Fund on their tax form, marking the second year in a row donations had increased.

Stephanie Shepherd, diversity wildlife coordinator for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR), hopes that continues in 2013.

“The number of Iowans donating to the fund is growing after a 10-year downward trend,” said Shepherd. “Those donations go directly to research and habitat development for some of Iowa’s most vulnerable animal species, so the funds are very important for natural resources.”

Shepherd said Iowans donated $132,000 last spring when completing their 2011 tax forms.

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.

At its height, Iowans donated more than $200,000 annually to the fund. One of the main reasons for the decline was the increase in electronic tax filing, she said.

“It is easy to pass over or forget, and many tax preparers may not remember to ask whether a client wants to donate,” said Shepherd. “It may be up to the taxpayer to remind their preparer, or check out the completeness of the electronic program they are using.”

Donating on the tax form is easy: simply write the amount to donate next to the Fish and Wildlife Check-Off (line 58a on Form 1040) and the sum is either automatically deducted from the refund or added to the amount owed. As with all charitable contributions, the amount is deductible from next year’s taxes.

“Our goal in 2013 is for more people to find the check off on their electronic tax form, and to increase donations by 10 percent,” said Shepherd.

All proceeds from the check-off support 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, fund research studies, support the reintroduction of threatened or endangered species, and much more.