Wisconsin residents have roughly three weeks to take a simple step that can assure Wisconsin’s rare plants and wildlife and special places will be around for their kids and grandkids to enjoy.

State tax forms are due April 17, and people can help keep Wisconsin wild by looking for the loon on their state income tax form and making a donation to the Endangered Resources Fund, says Laurie Osterndorf, who leads Wisconsin’s endangered resources program.

“Every year, private donations account for 25 percent to 40 percent of the funding to safeguard our natural heritage,” she says. “They are critical investments for our state and local economies.”

The tax check-off is found in the “donations” section on state income tax forms. Donations made through this form are critical to funding work to help protect and restore rare plant and animal species, to prevent more common non-game species from declining, and to protect the State Natural Areas that provide habitat for these species and represent the best remnants of the state’s natural communities, Osterndorf says.

Every dollar contributed through the tax check off or through a direct donation is matched by a state dollar up to $500,000. Private donations also are critical because there is not a more stable, dedicated funding source as there is for managing game animals such as deer, turkey and fish, Osterndorf says. The management of game animals is funded largely through the sales of state hunting and fishing licenses and receives federal dollars in proportion to the number of licenses sold every year.

Private contributions to Wisconsin’s Endangered Resources Fund also are vital for the state’s and local communities’ economies: wildlife watching activities generate a $1.2 billion annual economic impact, support 17,166 jobs, and bring in $111 million in state and local tax revenues annually, according to “Wildlife Watching in the U.S.: The Economic Impact on National and State Economies.”

“Every little bit helps,” Osterndorf says. “Your contribution big or small is an investment in making sure that future generations can enjoy a big part of what makes Wisconsin so special: our native plants, and wildlife and state natural areas.”

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