Folks getting ready to file their tax returns might consider supporting 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. 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 only two ways to support animals that are not hunted, fished or trapped is by donating on your Idaho income tax form or buying an Idaho wildlife license plate.
Nongame programs include education, conservation and recreation. Examples of nongame wildlife projects include producing popular educational publications and doing research on nongame wildlife species. Better information about those species aids 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 the nongame program and meet ever-increasing demands continues.
More than 80 percent of Idaho's wild creatures-523 species including songbirds, water birds, raptors, small mammals, reptiles and amphibians, and threatened and endangered wildlife-are classified as "nongame wildlife."
Nongame wildlife is not normally hunted, fished or trapped, but is found in every corner of Idaho.
Besides the check-off, the 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 wildlife license plate proceeds to benefit the nongame wildlife program. The bluebird plate became available in 1993. The elk plate was added in 1998 and the cutthroat trout plate in 2003.
The nongame program gets 70 percent of the money from bluebird plates, and 60 percent of the money from elk and trout plates - 10 percent of the money from elk plates supports wildlife disease monitoring and testing programs and 10 percent from cutthroat plates supports non-motorized boat access.
The rest of the money goes to Idaho Transportation Department.
The wildlife plates and the tax check-off provide about 95 percent of state-based nongame wildlife program funding, which includes many projects, such as annual 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.
Wildlife plates are available at the vehicle licensing offices of every county assessor. For information, or to buy a wildlife plate, contact the local county assessor: http://itd.idaho.gov/dmv/vehicleservices/assessor.htm; or the Department of Transportation Special Plates-Registration Services Section on the Internet at http://www.itd.idaho.gov/dmv/Vehicleservices/registr.htm; or by phone at 208-334-8649.