As you gather your W-2 and other income tax paperwork, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) hopes you will consider helping the state’s endangered plants, animals and fish when you file your state return.
The California Individual Income Tax Form 540 gives everyone an opportunity to help our native wildlife – including plants and fish – by donating to the Rare and Endangered Species Preservation Program and the California Sea Otter Fund in the Voluntary Contributions section of your state return. Any amount you contribute will support programs that benefit California species at risk of extinction. For most people, donations are tax-deductible the following year.
California has 220 plant species and 87 animal species listed as rare, threatened or endangered. Money raised through the tax contribution program helps pay for essential CDFW research and recovery efforts for these plants and animals, as well as critical efforts to restore and conserve their habitat. Habitat conservation and restoration for the most vulnerable species also protects many other plants and animals, helps recover ecosystem function and enhances the outdoor experience for all Californians.
The Rare and Endangered Species Preservation Program (RESP) on line 403 of your tax return, has supported work benefiting California’s native at-risk fish, wildlife and plants since 1983. Donations to this fund by California taxpayers has enabled CDFW to obtain grant money from the federal government and collaborate with numerous stakeholders, agencies and other organizations to conserve native wildlife.
For example, current efforts include investigating the impact that a deadly new fungus may have on native salamanders and ways to potentially manage infections, reintroducing critically endangered mountain yellow-legged frogs to historically occupied areas, assisting with development of a 10-year Recovery Action Plan for the San Francisco gartersnake and plans for future reintroductions, investigating the impacts of insecticides on food resources, and breeding success of the threatened tricolored blackbird, and more.
In 2018, the RESP voluntary donations helped provide endangered species protection for two species of plants, one bird and one mammal at risk of extinction. The RESP donations are also helping biologists evaluate whether two species of frogs warrant protection under the California Endangered Species Act.
Contributions to the California Sea Otter Fund on line 410 of your tax return are split between CDFW and the State Coastal Conservancy to benefit the Southern sea otter (Enhydra lutris nereis) population. The smallest marine mammal once lived in nearshore waters all along California’s coast and in estuaries such as Humboldt, San Francisco, Tomales and Morro bays. Reliable sources estimate there once were as many as 16,000 sea otters in California before fur traders hunted them to near-extinction in the 19th century. A few survived, were discovered in the 1930s, and quickly given legal protection. They are federally listed as threatened.
The Coastal Conservancy uses most of the donations for grants supporting research and conservation actions that facilitate recovery of California’s sea otter. Research funded through this program has investigated factors limiting population growth and opportunities for range expansion to facilitate population recovery.
CDFW uses Sea Otter Fund donations for scientific research on the causes of death in California’s sea otters to help inform management actions.
More than 16 million Californians file state tax returns each year. If each one donated just one dollar, that could solve many problems for the state’s wildlife and ecosystems. The average voluntary contribution in 2018 was $15.
CDFW biologists have achieved important recovery milestones and protected vulnerable species, thanks to California taxpayers. More information about how CDFW uses donated funds is at www.wildlife.ca.gov/tax-donation and at www.facebook.com/seaotterfundcdfw.
If someone else prepares your state tax return, please let him or her know you want to donate to the Rare and Endangered Species Preservation Program on line 403 or the California Sea Otter Fund on line 410. If you use TurboTax, step-by-step instructions to help you find the California Contribution Funds are posted in the CDFW Document Library.