As you gather your W-2 and other income tax paperwork, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) hopes you will consider helping our state’s endangered plants, animals and fish when you file your state return.
The California Individual Income Tax Form 540 gives us all 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.
We live and work in one of the most biologically and geographically diverse states in North America—one reason California is such a nice place to live. But it is also the state with the largest human population, and many of our activities are detrimental to wildlife.
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 yourtax 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, with such partners we are currently:
- 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,
- assisting with Mohave ground squirrel population monitoring at a long-term monitoring site near the Coso Range of Inyo county, and
- coordinating development of a plan for the release of California condors into the Klamath region of northern California to help increase the breeding population and species distribution.
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 tiny coast yellow leptosiphon (Leptosiphon croceus), known from only one population in San Mateo County; the beautiful Lassics lupine (Lupinus constancei), known from only two populations in the remote Lassics mountains of Humboldt and Trinity counties; the uniquely colonial tricolored blackbird (Agelaius tricolor), which is restricted almost entirely to California; and a small forest carnivore, the Humboldt marten (Martes caurina humboldtensis).
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 our 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 your 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. Conservation actions funded have reduced threats to sea otters including:
- reducing cyanobacteria blooms affecting otters, through management of water chemistry at Pinto Lake in Watsonville,
- reducing vehicle strikes on otters, through installation of speed humps and signage on a coastal road in Moss Landing, and
- reducing disturbance to sea otters by marine recreationists, through the Sea Otter Savvy
CDFW uses Sea Otter Fund donations for scientific research on the causes of death in California’s sea otters to help inform management actions like those listed above.
More than 16 million Californians file state tax returns each year. If each one donated just one dollar, we could solve many problems for our wildlife and ecosystems. It doesn’t take a large donation (although we dearly appreciate those!) to make a difference. 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.
Jeb Bjerke, CDFW Native Plants Program, (916) 651-6594
Esther Burkett, CDFW Nongame Wildlife Program, (916) 531-1594
Dana Michaels, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-2420
Laird Henkel, CDFW Sea Otter Program, (831) 469-1726