Sportsmen: Impact wildlife with your Idaho tax return this year

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(Photo courtesy IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND GAME) The largest winter feeding operation in state history kept thousands of elk and deer in eastern Idaho away from private property and nourished through the winter.

COEUR D’ALENE — The taxes we pay provide funds for many of the services and programs provided by federal and local government agencies. Police departments, fire departments, public schools, transportation, parks, health and welfare programs and many more… are all paid for by the taxpayer.

It comes as a surprise to many people when they hear that the agency that manages wildlife resources in the state, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG), is not financed by income tax, property tax, or state sales tax.

IDFG is funded through license and tag sales paid by hunters, anglers, and trappers; and excise taxes those same people pay on hunting and fishing equipment. Those who hunt, fish, and trap pay for the management of wildlife in Idaho.

Retail sales of wildlife related recreation equipment in Idaho annually produces over $100 million in Idaho sales tax revenue for the state general fund. Yet, Idaho Fish and Game does not receive any money from the general fund.

IDFG employs 112 Conservation Officers who enforce all laws of the State of Idaho. IDFG manages 365,000 acres of state land and 32 wildlife management areas, provides and maintains 350 boating and fishing access sites, and plants 32 million fish a year in over 600 lakes and streams. All of this is done at no cost to the taxpayer unless they choose to be a hunter or angler.

If you do not financially support the management of wildlife in Idaho by buying a hunting, fishing, or trapping license (or, even if you do); there is a way you can voluntarily support wildlife programs. When you prepare your state income taxes, a check-off on the state tax form allows you to choose to voluntarily contribute.

Contributions collected through the check-off are used to benefit non-game wildlife... those species which are not hunted, hooked or trapped. Taxpayers can choose to voluntarily reduce their tax refund, or add a contribution to the tax amount they owe. The amount donated is up to and designated by the individual taxpayer.

Contributing to the nongame wildlife check-off is a way for all Idahoans, whether they are hunters, anglers or wildlife watchers (or a combination of all three) to provide something for the wildlife they enjoy.

Voluntary contributions through the nongame tax check-off are used to fund a variety of projects including research on nongame species, wildlife viewing site development, wildlife based educational programs, etc.. In general, the contributions help manage nongame species through gaining a better understanding of their habitats and life cycles, or through education which expands public appreciation of and knowledge about the nongame wildlife resources in the state.

Idaho’s expanding population increases strains on nongame wildlife and their habitats. Contributing to the tax check-off is a way for all Idahoans to help biologists understand the particular needs of nongame species, and hopefully prevent the need to list additional species as endangered.

Other ways to help the nongame and watchable wildlife programs in Idaho include voluntary donations to the Nongame Wildlife Trust Fund, P.O. Box 25, Boise, Id. 83707, and purchasing the special wildlife license plates for motor vehicles. A portion of the cost of these special wildlife license plates goes to IDFG.

This year when you prepare your state income tax return, please consider a donation to benefit nongame wildlife. That way you can contribute to the management of Idaho’s wildlife…even if you don’t hunt, fish or trap.

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