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Budgets for bugs, other 'nongame' wildlife

| April 15, 2010 9:00 PM

In all the news about state budgets it is interesting to note that Idaho Fish and Game receives no general tax money. Fish and Game is funded by hunting and fishing license sales and federal excise taxes on sporting equipment. These funds go to manage those "game" species we hunt and fish, but what about the wild animals that are not considered game?

In all the news about state budgets it is interesting to note that Idaho Fish and Game receives no general tax money.

Fish and Game is funded by hunting and fishing license sales and federal excise taxes on sporting equipment. These funds go to manage those "game" species we hunt and fish, but what about the wild animals that are not considered game?

"We don't spend sportsmen's dollars to protect their habitat or manage the species. So, over the last 25 years we've been looking for different sources of funds for nongame," said Jeff Gould, Fish and Game wildlife chief.

The state income tax form has a check-off box where people can choose to donate to nongame wildlife projects. This raises about $50,000 annually. However, the major funding source is the sales of wildlife license plates; the bluebird, elk and cutthroat trout. But that revenue has crashed, dropping 30 percent in the past two years.

The nongame budget is used to monitor populations and improve the habitat of species at risk such as spotted frogs or the southern Idaho ground squirrel. The beauty is that improving habitat for nongame species benefits game species too.

"Everything helps the other species, everything is so interconnected," said Gayle Valentine, director of the Idaho Fish and Wildlife Foundation. This year, the foundation raised $17,000 with its Internet auction to benefit "watchable wildlife" projects administered by the nongame program at Fish and Game.

"While a lot of people like to hunt and fish there also are people out there that just love to watch wildlife," Valentine said.

Buying a wildlife license plate, donating through the tax check-off or giving directly to the nongame program is a way for people who simply love wildlife to contribute to their conservation. It is a way to give back for the pleasure of seeing songbirds, frogs, wolverines, osprey and great blue herons.

And wildlife plates on a car say something about the owner.

"They like to hike, they like to photograph, and that's what watchable wildlife is all about," Valentine said.

To Gould it says "you appreciate nature, and for many, you enjoy fishing," he said.

For information, or to buy a wildlife plate contact the local county assessor: http://itd.idaho.gov/dmv/vehicleservices/assessor.htm; or the Department of Transportation Special Plates-Registration Services Section on the Internet at http://www.itd.idaho.gov/dmv/Vehicleservices/registr.htm; or by phone at (208) 334-8649.

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