DNR hopes to turn around drop in tax checkoff donations to wildlife fund

DES MOINES — Iowa’s Fish and Wildlife Fund, more commonly known as the Chickadee Checkoff, saw a drop in donors last year and it’s hoped tax season this year can bring the fund a boost.

Stephanie Shepherd, wildlife biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, says the checkoff was launched in the early 1980s to benefit all types of non-game animals statewide. “Everything from bumblebees to bats to bald eagles to bluebirds,” Shepherd says. “Those species didn’t have any kind of dedicated funding source in order to preserve their habitats, do conservation work on them and to make sure that their populations stay healthy.”

The fund brought about the creation of the DNR’s Wildlife Diversity Program, which is responsible for protecting more than 1,000 fish and wildlife species in the state. Only about four-tenths of one-percent of Iowa’s taxpayers donated to the fund on their state tax forms last year.
“The amount of donations did go down a bit in the 2017 tax year, the most recent one. It went down about $4,000 but honestly, it’s still at a relatively high amount,” Shepherd says. “It’s about $144,000 is where it was at in October. That’s still a really generous amount.”

According to Shepherd, the donations go directly to habitat development and restoration programs for some of Iowa’s most vulnerable species.
“Over 7,500 people actually donated to the check-off which is really incredible,” Shepherd says. “Even though the number of people donating has continued to go down, they’ve increased the amount they’re donating, so it really hasn’t been as huge of an impact in the amount of money being donated as it could.”

To donate via your state tax return, write the amount you want to donate next to the Fish and Wildlife CheckOff on line 57 of Form 1040. The sum is either automatically deducted from the refund or added to the amount owed.