As you sweat and swear your way through this year's tax forms, it might lift spirits a little to check the box for donating to Idaho's wildlife.
Taxpayers may check the square on their Idaho tax forms to donate any amount of their refund to nongame wildlife programs 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.
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.