It’s not too late to help your wild neighbors.
Georgians who have yet to file their 2009 taxes can make their mark on wildlife by contributing to the state income tax checkoff for the Georgia Wildlife Conservation Fund.
The Wildlife Conservation Fund is dedicated to conserving Georgia’s nongame wildlife, including rare and endangered animals and plants. Donations made through the state income tax checkoff, often called the Give Wildlife a Chance checkoff, go directly to the fund.
Checkoff contributions are vital to the Nongame Conservation Section, which is the Georgia Department of Natural Resources agency charged with conserving native animals and plants not legally hunted, fished for, trapped or otherwise collected, as well as their habitats. The Nongame Conservation Section receives no state funding. Instead, it depends on fundraisers like the Give Wildlife a Chance checkoff and wildlife license plates, plus grants and direct donations.
Section Assistant Chief Lisa Weinstein said many Georgians have been touched – sometimes unknowingly – by the agency’s work, be it through an educational outreach at Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center in Mansfield, habitat acquisition like the expansion of Paulding Forest Wildlife Management Area near Dallas or research of priority species varying from Northeast Georgia’s imperiled bog turtles to endangered wood storks nesting in South Georgia.
“We’re the best-kept secret in conservation,” Weinstein said.
Checkoff contributions affect conservation locally and across the state, she said. The impact is crucial considering that contributions are used to match federal and other grants. In 2008 and 2009, every quarter spent from the Wildlife Conservation Fund has garnered $1 in conservation grants.
Unfortunately, checkoff funding has declined in recent years. Georgians can reverse that trend in 2010. Contributions to the Wildlife Conservation Fund can be deducted from refunds or added to payments. Fill in any amount more than $1 on line 27 of the state’s long tax form (Form 500) or line 10 of the short form (Form 500EZ).
The Georgia Wildlife Conservation Fund checkoff is the first checkoff listed on the forms.