Californians Can Help Save Endangered Species at Tax Time


California’s wild animals and plants need your help, and there’s an easy way to do it! Just make a voluntary contribution on line 403 and/or line 410 of your state income tax return (Form 540). By contributing any amount over one dollar you can support the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) Rare and Endangered Species Preservation Fund and/or the California Sea Otter Fund. What you donate this year is tax deductible on next year’s return. Californians can receive state income tax credit from the Franchise Tax Board for helping wildlife.

“The voluntary donations made by Californians at tax time are incredibly important in our efforts to save threatened and endangered species,” said DFG Director Charlton H. Bonham. “These funds have provided critical support for many state-listed species such as the Bakersfield cactus, Owens pupfish, San Francisco garter snake, California tiger salamander, marbled murrelet, Mohave ground squirrel and many more. These donations will help ensure that California’s extraordinary biodiversity is maintained for future generations.”

There are 387 listed plant and animal species, from little “bugs” that most of us have never heard of, to the iconic California sea otter. Hundreds more are at risk. Money raised through the tax check-off program helps pay for essential DFG research and recovery efforts. Such work allowed the California brown pelican and American peregrine falcon to be de-listed in 2009.

California is one of 41 states that allow taxpayers to make a voluntary, tax-deductible contribution to one or more worthwhile causes on their state returns. Since 1983, the tax check-off fund for Rare and Endangered Species has raised more than $18 million and supported numerous projects, including the establishment of a controlled breeding program for endangered riparian brush rabbits using a newly discovered population of wild rabbits. This collaborative effort has resulted in a significant expansion of riparian brush rabbit populations on public lands. The critical support of California taxpayers has enabled wildlife biologists to achieve important recovery milestones to conserve our vulnerable species.

More information on the Rare and Endangered Species Preservation tax check-off program is available at

A second tax check-off fund was created specifically to facilitate recovery of the California sea otter, which is listed as a State Fully Protected Species and a Threatened Species under the federal Endangered Species Act.  Based on the most recently completed survey, there are fewer than 2,800 sea otters remaining in California. This small population is extremely vulnerable to oil spills, environmental pollution, predation by white sharks and other threats.  Many sea otter deaths have been linked to pollution flowing from land to the sea, including fecal parasites, bacterial toxins and chemicals that have been linked to coastal land use.

According to DFG Wildlife Veterinarian and lead sea otter researcher Melissa Miller, the California Sea Otter Fund provides crucial funding to help scientists better understand and trace causes of sea otter mortality, identify factors limiting population growth and work collaboratively with stakeholders to prevent pollution of California’s nearshore marine ecosystem. This fund is made possible entirely through voluntary contributions by citizens of the state of California. The California Sea Otter Fund has become especially vital during the current economic downturn, because other sources of support for sea otter conservation and research have decreased or are no longer available. There are no other dedicated state funding sources available to continue this important work.

You can support this research by making a contribution on line 410 of your state tax form 540, the California Sea Otter Fund. DFG works with Defenders of Wildlife to help promote the Sea Otter Fund. An excellent video about the sea otters’ current plight is on their website, (keywords “tax check-off”).

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