Stephanie Shepherd, wildlife diversity biologist for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, says the decline in contributors followed four consecutive years of growth.
“It was really exciting to see the uptick in donations, but in the last year – the 2014 tax year, our donations started to go down again. So, we definitely want to make sure that doesn’t turn into a trend and it’s just a one year thing,” Shepherd said.
Iowans donated roughly $132,000 last spring when completing their 2014 tax forms. That marks a three percent decline from 2013 returns but still represents a nearly 19 percent increase compared to the low point of the fund in 2009.
Shepherd warns tax payers who want to contribute to “be alert,” as it’s one of the last items on the form. She notes it can easily be overlooked when working with a tax preparer. “The tax preparers, you know…it’s not exactly a fun thing to get your taxes done, so they’re trying to be efficient, get people out, and they frequently don’t ask about the contribution lines,” Shepherd said.
Donations to all the state tax form checkoffs were down on 2014 returns. Donations to the Fish and Wildlife Fund, also known as the “Chickadee Checkoff,” go directly to research and habitat development for some of Iowa’s most vulnerable animal species.
The checkoff was created by state lawmakers in 1981. At its height, Iowans donated more than $200,000 annually to the fund.