Saving endangered species from extinction takes a lot of work, but you don’t have to do much to help. Simply making a voluntary contribution on your state income tax return helps the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) do the heavy lifting. Just enter a whole dollar amount on line 403 for the Rare and Endangered Species Preservation Program, and on line 410 for the California Sea Otter Fund.
“Thanks to our wise and generous donors, CDFW has accomplished many conservation actions,” CDFW Environmental Program Manager Karen Miner said. “Yet, much remains to be done for a number of threatened and endangered species in California. Additional funding is needed for us to keep making progress. I hope more Californians will donate and our donors will consider increasing their contribution this year, and spread the word to family, friends and neighbors.”
Taxpayers’ donations make more of a positive difference than you might think, because contributions help CDFW acquire federal matching funds, furthering the positive actions that can be done for threatened and endangered species and their habitat.
Among other things, past donations to the Rare and Endangered Species Preservation Program have funded monitoring programs for several endangered species populations, including a very small population of Butte County meadowfoam (Limnanthes floccose ssp. californica) located on the picturesque North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve in Butte County. CDFW biologists are also monitoring populations of invasive pennyroyal that are encroaching upon the tiny and beautiful many-flowered navarretia (Navarretia leucocephala ssp. plieantha) at Loch Lomond Ecological Reserve in Lake County.
Biologists are analyzing available data on the flat-tailed horned lizard (Phrynosoma mcallii), a well-camouflaged species that is endemic to the Sonoran Desert, to assess factors that may be affecting the species’ ability to survive and reproduce.
Scripps’s murrelet (Synthliboramphus scrippsi) is another species CDFW is working to conserve, in concert with many partners involved in the Scripps’s Murrelet Technical Committee (affiliated with the Pacific Seabird Group). The committee has prioritized management actions and is finalizing a conservation plan to help recover this state-threatened little seabird that nests on some of the Channel Islands in Southern California. The black and white-feathered murrelet is a member of the bird family Alcidae which includes murres and puffins, and the extinct Great Auk (Pinguinus impennis).
CDFW is working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service and others to develop and implement conservation actions such as disease treatment, captive rearing, reintroductions and habitat restoration for three high-risk species of Sierra Nevada amphibians: the Yosemite toad (Anaxyrus canorus), southern mountain yellow-legged frog (Rana muscosa), and Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog (Rana sierrae).
In partnership with a private land owner, CDFW biologists helped restore habitat for Shoshone pupfish (Cyprinodon nevadensis Shoshone), a rare endemic State Species of Concern, literally bringing it back from the edge of extinction. This fish has resumed its place in a desert wetland ecosystem and may be seen in Shoshone Village at the edge of Death Valley National Park.
CDFW biologists also worked with Yosemite National Park to conduct remote camera surveys for fisher (Pekania pennanti), and with multiple partners to prepare a conservation plan for fisher in the southern Sierra Nevada mountains. The fisher is a rare forest carnivore with dark brown fur, and is related to mink and sea otters.
Donations to the California Sea Otter Fund are split between CDFW and the State Coastal Conservancy. CDFW’s half supports scientific research on the causes of mortality in sea otters (Enhydra lutris nereis). In addition to working on a large analysis of 15 years of mortality data, CDFW scientists are conducting research on little-known viruses, parasites and biotoxins that may be harming sea otters. Through a better understanding of the causes of mortality, it may be possible to work more effectively to recover the sea otter population here. The Southern sea otter is listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act, depleted under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and “fully protected” by the State of California.
The annual sea otter survey conducted in 2015 indicated that the population in California may be slowly increasing, to just over 3,000. That is a small fraction of their historic numbers and this population is still vulnerable to oil spills, environmental pollution, predation by white sharks and other threats. In fact, despite the overall population holding steady, the number of sea otters at the northern and southern ends of their range in California decreased in 2015.
CDFW biologists have been able to achieve important recovery milestones and conserve vulnerable species, thanks to California taxpayers like you. More information about how CDFW uses funds in the Rare and Endangered Species and Sea Otter programs is available 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 California Sea Otter Fund on line 410 or the Rare and Endangered Species Preservation Program on line 403. If you use Turbo Tax, when you’re near the end of your tax return it should ask if you want to make a voluntary contribution to a special fund. Click “Yes” and go to lines 403 and 410.
The state has listed more than 200 species of plants and 80 species of animals as rare, threatened or endangered. Money raised through the tax donation program helps pay for essential CDFW research and recovery efforts for these plants and animals, and critical efforts to restore and conserve their habitat.
Laird Henkel, Sea Otter Program, (831) 469-1726
Esther Burkett, Nongame Wildlife Program, (916) 531-1594
Jeb Bjerke, Habitat Conservation Planning Branch (plants), (916) 651-6594
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8988