Anyone working on this year's tax forms might consider checking the box to donate to Idaho's wildlife.
Taxpayers may check the square on their Idaho tax forms to donate any amount of their refund to the Nongame Wildlife Conservation Fund administered by Idaho Fish and Game.
This fund is used to pay for important work on species that are not hunted, fished or trapped - the "nongame" species of wildlife and plants that make up the vast majority of Idaho's biological diversity. Other Fish and Game programs aimed at game animals and fish are funded through the sale of licenses and tags to hunters and anglers.
No general taxes go to either game or nongame programs.
The two primary ways to support conservation and management of nongame animals and plants is to make a donation on your Idaho income tax form or to buy an Idaho wildlife license plate.
Nongame programs include education, species conservation and wildlife-based recreation such as bird watching and wildlife photography. Examples of nongame wildlife projects include producing popular educational publications and conducting monitoring of species' populations. Better information about a species helps wildlife management efforts and could help keep some from becoming rare or endangered.
The number of Idaho residents participating in wildlife related activities, such as bird and wildlife watching, wildlife photography, bird feeding and conservation education, continues to rise. While this constituency continues to grow, the problem of how to fund key programs and meet ever-increasing demands continues.
Idaho Fish and Game has statutory responsibility for approximately 10,000 species - fish, wildlife and plants. Of these, about 550 are fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals, 80 percent of which are classified as "nongame wildlife." Nongame wildlife are species not normally hunted, fished or trapped, but are found in every corner of Idaho.
Besides the check-off, the other major source of funding for nongame programs is through the sale of the distinctive bluebird, cutthroat trout and elk license plates.
Legislation established the state's first income tax check-off on the 1981 income tax form, which still continues as an important source of program income today. In 1992, the Idaho Legislature passed the Wildlife license plate bill that allowed a portion of the proceeds to benefit nongame species. The bluebird plate became available in 1993. The elk plate was added in 1998 and the cutthroat trout plate in 2003.
Wildlife plates provide about 95 percent of state-based funding for nongame species, which includes many projects such as bald eagle counts and the Idaho Birding Trail, as well as the Project WILD and Wildlife Express conservation education programs for teachers and students. The money also provides critical matching dollars for federal grants and partnerships with federal natural resource agencies.
For information on Idaho's Wildlife plates, visit http://wildlifelicenseplates.com/ or contact your local Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) office available at https://itd.idaho.gov/itddmv/?target=registration-plates.
For more on how you can help support nongame wildlife, visit the Fish and Game website at https://idfg.idaho.gov/wildlife/funding.