Voluntary donations from generous Ohioans mostly are what keep intact 136 of the state’s best wild gems, its state nature preserves, and the coming weeks are a critical time in that regard.
That is because we have entered the annual state income tax filing season. One of the chief remaining pillars supporting nature preserves is the voluntary income tax refund contribution. Known as a checkoff, these contributions annually funnel about $300,000 into the preserves. Specialty motor-vehicle license plates kick in about $10,000 more.
All of which does not sound like much, but the state’s nature preserves have only a $1.2 million budget overall, including a stingy general revenue allotment from the State Legislature. Once a free-standing division within the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, what is left of “DNAP” is embedded administratively in the state parks system.
This program needs much more help, such as an excise tax on outdoors gear used in birding, hiking, and pursuits other than hunting and angling, which for decades have been supported by their own excise taxes. But that is a bigger issue for another time.
For now, donations to the State Nature Preserves Fund help protect the most unique and rare among Ohio’s natural landscapes: from bogs and fens to prairies and old-growth forest, as well as the native plant and animal communities found in these biologically diverse landscapes.
The money is earmarked specifically for land acquisition, critical eco-management, research, facility improvements and public education. Every donation helps protect Ohio’s threatened and endangered species and important habitats.
If you want to help and are set to receive an income tax refund, mark off a donation in the amount of your choice on line 27d of the 2014 Individual Income Tax Return , or line 20d of the 1040 EZ form. It will help keep our network of preserves alive.
If you are not receiving an income tax refund, you still can contribute by sending a donation directly to: State Nature Preserves Fund, Ohio Division of Natural Areas and Preserves, 2045 Morse Road, Bldg. C-3, Columbus, OH 43229.
To learn more about these fascinating parcels, visit on-line at naturepreserves.ohiodnr.gov.