Do you enjoy watching eagles, butterflies, and cranes? Do you also enjoy hearing frogs and songbirds? If so, you should consider contributing to the Fish and Wildlife Fund (also known as the “Chickadee Checkoff”) on this year’s Iowa state tax return. It’s an easy way we can all help out our non-game wildlife species.
Non-game animals are species that are not hunted, fished, or trapped. In Iowa, that includes over 1,000 fish and wildlife species, including raptors, songbirds, bats, frogs, and butterflies.
Unfortunately, the Checkoff is one of the only regular sources of funding those species have. Game animals such as ducks, geese, deer, turkeys, and pheasants benefit from money generated by hunting and fishing licenses, but non-game species don’t have that advantage.
Chickadee Checkoff money is used for many different things that benefit nongame species. Some of it is used to improve or restore wildlife habitat critical for at-risk species.
Some of it is used to study species such as bald eagles, herons, and frogs that need consistent monitoring. Recent research projects have studied the nesting success of Barn Owls in Iowa, as well as the status of the endangered Rusty-patched Bumblebee.
Much of the state’s non-game research is conducted through citizen science projects that involve ordinary people all across the state. And Checkoff money is also used to educate people about various non-game species, their status in Iowa, and how we can all help them.
Unfortunately, only about 7,200 Iowa taxpayers (less than .5 percent) contributed to the fund on their tax forms last year, donating just under $150,000 to the fund. Although that is a significant amount of money, it doesn’t go far when there are over 1,000 non-game species in Iowa that depend upon Checkoff money.
Taxpayers can decide how much they want to contribute and the average donation last year was $20.39. But, if every Iowa taxpayer would donate just $1 to the fund, over $1.5 million could be raised, three times what is currently contributed.
Fortunately, donating to the Checkoff is easy to do If you’d like to help, you can designate how much you’d like to contribute on line 57 of your 1040 tax form. The money will then either be automatically taken off your refund or added to what you already owe.
So, if you enjoy seeing and hearing all the wonderful species of animals that we are fortunate enough to have here in Iowa, consider helping them with a donation on this year’s tax form.
Lisa Ralls is a naturalist with Winnebago County Conservation.