Iowans are being encouraged to donate to the Fish and Wildlife Fund when they file their taxes this year. Stephanie Shepherd, with the Department of Natural Resources’s Wildlife Diversity Program, says the fund is commonly referred to as the "Chickadee Checkoff." It was the first checkoff added to the Iowa tax form 27 years ago.
Shepherd says, "A lot of our game species are supported by hunting and fishing license sales. But, we have this group of species that are not hunted or fished who also need attention, but are not supported by those. So, in 1981 the legislature instituted the Chickadee Checkoff to provide some funds for those non-game wildlife." At one time, more than 16,000 people donated to the fund raising nearly $200,000 a year.
"In the last six years or so, as more checkoff have been added…and a number of other factors, the number of people donating has gone down as well as the amount being donated," Shepherd said. In 2006, fewer than 10,000 people donated to the Chickadee Checkoff raising $110,000. Shepherd says the donations help with a variety of projects.
She says the checkoff supports the DNR’s research and the reintroduction of imperiled wildlife in Iowa – including trumpeter swans, prairie chickens, river otters, peregrine falcons and ospreys. The funds are also used by the DNR to host public events such as Bald Eagle Appreciation Days, Pelican Fest and Hawk Watch. The Fish and Wildlife Fund and other checkoffs are located on line 58 of the state tax form.