State income tax return box helps conserve wildlife; tax deadline April 17

While it may not be the greatest break in income tax return history, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has extended the 2006 income tax filing deadline to Tuesday, April 17, this year, giving taxpayers an extra two days to file their 2006 federal tax returns and pay taxes. The Kansas Department of Revenue will also conform to this date, giving the Sunflower State's wildlife enthusiasts an extra two days to make the decision to "checkoff" on the Kansas income tax form and give a portion of returns back to nature.

Since 1981, the Chickadee Checkoff Program has raised money for endangered species protection, reintroductions, and wildlife viewing and education programs in Kansas. The checkoff has funded dozens of projects that assess the status of threatened and endangered species and other animals on the state's Species in Need of Conservation list. The golden eagle reintroduction project in Russell and Ellsworth counties is just one example of a Chickadee Checkoff-funded project.

Hundreds of research projects and habitat projects have been funded by more than $3.5 million contributed to the checkoff since its inception. In recent years, the checkoff has concentrated dollars to protect endangered species, develop habitat, monitor frog and toad populations, sponsor bluebird trails, and initiate landowner incentive programs for sensitive species. Additionally, the checkoff has served to document bald eagle nesting success and winter roosts in Kansas.

For several years, the checkoff sponsored the Nursing Home Bird Feeder Program with tremendous success. More than 250 sites were provided with bird feeders and initial bird feed.

Since 1985, the checkoff has sponsored the Backyard Habitat Improvement Program. Besides providing information and assistance to people for improving their yards for wildlife, a certification program is offered to recognize those who have created special habitat needs for wildlife in their own backyards.

The Chickadee Checkoff has also supported the Kansas Winter Bird Feeder Survey since 1988. About 1,000 people participate each year and provide valuable information about mid-winter bird populations. Research and habitat management have focused on sensitive river species in southeast Kansas, dwindling resources in western Kansas, and endangered species such as the least tern.

With the help of the Kansas Society of Certified Public Accountants, the Chickadee Checkoff has enjoyed stable contributions of about $150,000 per year. This year, look for the chickadee on your Kansas income tax form and do your part for Kansas wildlife.