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March 03, 2006

Tax-deductible Wildlife

Here's an interesting solution to a problem I blogged about a few weeks ago: states like Oregon are losing money to fund wildlife biology and habitat management. Traditionally, these activities have been funded by various hunting and fishing fees; and as the rod and gun sports have waned in popularity their revenue has dried up too. That leaves states less able to pursue wildlife and biological research--not to mention basic land and water conservation--which are hugely important for protecting natural resources.

The solution, in Oregon at least, is to allow tax payers to check a box on their state income tax forms and then make a tax-deductible contribution to non-game wildlife conservation. As far as I can tell from the Oregonian article, the contribution is above and beyond whatever taxes an individual owes. Still, it seems like a good way to encourage wildlife aficionados to make a voluntary contribution to Oregon's natural heritage. This sort of revenue-generation must certainly be more popular than access fees like parking at USFS trailheads and state parks--fees that have proved less than popular in the Northwest.

I'm intrigued by this idea, partly because the revenue is important and partly because it shifts the funding away from hunting and fishing and toward wildlife watching. I imagine the funding shift will also be reflected in the research and conservation priorities that the money pays for. Too bad it can't happen in Washington (because there's no state income tax and hence no form with a handy box to check).

Anyone else know of similar stuff happening elsewhere? 

UPDATE: And by the Oregonian, of course, I meant the Salem Statesman-Journal. Of course. Here's the article. (Thanks, Grace.)

Posted by Eric de Place | Permalink

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Comments

The Oregon thing also lets you deduct that amount from your refund that you get back -- it's pretty snazzy, really. I suppose it would be a big deal if a lot of people check the box, but I don't know how many people really donate. In Oregon, there's a very anti-ODFW mentality (I should know, since I worked for ODFW and got a lot of flack in the tiny town I worked in). So, I'm thinking they get some money from the city-slickers, and it helps pad the budget, but I don't think they'll be making up their entire budget from an optional check box on the tax return.

Posted by: Leah | Mar 3, 2006 1:34:20 PM

Thanks, Leah. Following is a short excerpt from the Oregonian article:

"The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife collects about $38.5 million per year in hunting and fishing license and tag fees, money that is returned to management of animals pursued by hunters and fishers.

The only money earmarked for nongame species -- those for which there is no hunting or fishing -- is about $130,000 from people giving on their state tax return. Then by applying for federal matching funds, wildlife managers can multiply that sum to twice or three times its face value."

Posted by: Eric de Place | Mar 3, 2006 1:38:44 PM

When I lived in Minnesota in the 1990s, there was a box on the state income tax form for the payer to contribute to the "nongame wildlife" fund. Also, Pennsylvania funds some of its nongame wildlife funding through sales of its river otter license plates. According to PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, "over $600,000 has been received for education and research projects related to the state’s native wild plants and nongame wildlife."

Posted by: Grace Wang | Mar 3, 2006 1:40:50 PM

California has a check-off box on income-tax forms where you can donate some of your refund to the "Rare and Endangered Species Preservation Program". Or, if you are feeling particularly generous, make a donation on top of whatever tax you might owe.

Posted by: Seth Zuckerman | Mar 3, 2006 1:49:04 PM

The creative thinking is great. Washington could go with a check box on the car tab renewal form.

If we keep day use passes, how about one pass for all state and federal jurisdictions?

Alex
Port Hadlock, WA

Posted by: Alex Hepler | Mar 3, 2006 6:51:02 PM

Maryland taxpayers have had a check off line since 1989. The proceeds are split between the Chesapeake Bay Trust (http://www.cbtrust.org/) and the MD Dept. of Natural Resources Wildlife and Heritage Division (http://www.dnr.state.md.us/wildlife/index.asp).

Posted by: gumbo | Mar 4, 2006 8:57:23 AM