A Taxing Subject: Saving Rare and Endangered Species


Sea otter [Image from the Department of Fish and Wildlife]

Press release from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife :

Extinction is forever, but you and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) can join forces to prevent it. Help save California’s native plant and animal species when you file your state income tax return by making a voluntary contribution to the Rare and Endangered Species Preservation Program (RESPP) and/or the California Sea Otter Fund.

Just enter any dollar amount you wish on line 403 for rare and endangered species and on line 410 for southern sea otters. Money donated by California’s taxpayers supports programs that benefit these at-risk species.

“Taxpayers’ donations make more of a positive difference than one might think,” CDFW Wildlife Branch Chief T.O. Smith said. “Voluntary contributions also help CDFW acquire federal matching funds, increasing the actions we can take for threatened and endangered species and their habitat.”

California has 219 species of plants and 83 species of animals listed as rare, threatened or endangered. Money raised through the tax donation program helps pay for essential CDFW research and recovery efforts for these plants and animals, and critical efforts to restore and conserve their habitat. Endangered species face many different threats, such as the unprecedented tree die-off occurring in the Sierra Nevada mountains due to a combination of past forest management practices, warming climate, severe drought and bark beetles capitalizing on the dying trees.

Past donations to the RESPP have enabled biologists to analyze data on the Tricolored blackbird (Agelaius tricolor) – North America’s most highly colonial land bird – to assess factors that may be affecting the species’ ability to survive and reproduce. Ninety-nine percent of the world’s Tricolored blackbird population lives within the State of California and statewide surveys have revealed that the species has declined by more than 60 percent in the past decade.

CDFW has been working with multiple stakeholders to study the current distribution and status of the Giant garter snake (Thamnophis gigas) – a highly aquatic threatened species – and to improve habitat suitability and stability in areas hardest hit by the drought.

Staff have participated in the California tiger salamander (Ambystoma californiense) Science Advisory Committee’s efforts to recover the threatened species, beginning with tackling the issue of how to reduce their hybridization with non-native tiger salamanders.

CDFW is in the final stages of completing a conservation strategy for the state-listed Mohave ground squirrel (Xerospermophilus mohavensis), which will guide conservation and research projects to help ensure recovery of the species.

With the assistance of biologists from other agencies, CDFW biologists have been monitoring endangered Desert pupfish (Cyprinodon macularius) populations and water quality in natural and artificial habitats. Pupfish have been rescued from natural habitats that have dried during summer months and have been relocated to other areas. Recovery actions have included identification of habitat in need of restoration.

RESPP funds supported the review of Livermore tarplant (Deinandra bacigalupii), which informed the Fish and Game Commission’s decision to protect the species under the California Endangered Species Act. Funds were also used to monitor several endangered plant species, including the critically endangered Slender-petaled mustard (Thelypodium stenopetalum), found only near Big Bear Lake in the San Bernardino Mountains.

The past five drought years have put endangered species at even greater risk as rivers and creeks have been impacted and seasonal and some permanent aquatic habitats dried up. CDFW has documented extremely low numbers and/or reproductive rates for winter-run Chinook Salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha), Delta Smelt (Hypomesus transpacificus), Mohave ground squirrel, Giant kangaroo rat (Dipodomys ingens), Giant garter snake, Santa Cruz long-toed salamander (Ambystoma macrodactylum croceum; drought rescue story on our website), California tiger salamander and Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog (Rana sierrae), among others.

There is no upper limit to voluntary contributions; any dollar amount is welcome. These plants and animals are part of our heritage and need your support to survive and thrive.

Donations to the California Sea Otter Fund are split between CDFW and the State Coastal Conservancy. CDFW’s half supports scientific research on the causes of mortality in sea otters (Enhydra lutris nereis). In addition to working on a large analysis of 15 years of mortality data, CDFW scientists are conducting research on little-known viruses, parasites and biotoxins that may be harming sea otters. Through a better understanding of the causes of mortality, it may be possible to work more effectively to recover the sea otter population here. The Southern sea otter is listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act, depleted under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and “fully protected” by the State of California.

“This voluntary contribution program provides important funding for understanding sea otter health and implementing programs to help recover the Southern sea otter population,” said CDFW Sea Otter Program Manager Laird Henkel. “Our team and collaborators are currently in the final stages of summarizing 15 years of sea otter post-mortem investigations, largely supported by this tax check-off program. We’re excited that we’ll have this information to share later this year.”

CDFW is also collaborating with Friends of the Sea Otter and others on the ‘Sea Otter Savvy’ program. Also supported primarily by tax check-off contributions, this program is designed to reduce human disturbance to sea otters.

In 2016, $5,000 of the fund was offered as part of a larger reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) who shot four sea otters near Santa Cruz. Unfortunately, CDFW has not yet received such information.

CDFW biologists have achieved important recovery milestones and protected vulnerable species, thanks to California taxpayers. More information about how CDFW uses funds in the Rare and Endangered Species and Sea Otter programs is available at www.wildlife.ca.gov/tax-donation and at www.facebook.com/seaotterfundcdfw.

If someone else prepares your state tax return, please let him or her know you want to donate to the California Sea Otter Fund on line 410 or the RESPP on line 403. If you use Turbo Tax, when you’re near the end of your tax return it should ask if you want to make a voluntary contribution to a special fund. Click “Yes” and go to lines 403 and 410.

green and brown plant with small yellow flowers in a gold field of dead grass and weeds
Livermore tarplant, of the sunflower family, only exists in a few locations in Alameda County. Jeb Bjerke/CDFW photo
A brown and yellow-striped giant garter snake in grass and dirt
Giant garter snake. Courtesy of Eric Hansen
A California tiger salamander, brown with yellow spots, standing in mud
California tiger salamander. Courtesy of Jack Goldfarb Photography
Two sea otters with head and shoulders visible ablve water
California sea otters


  • No thanks. Some things are exquisite, but not that impactful. Rare scrub bushes, giant garter snakes, and cool looking salamanders are better off breeding in your yard. No need to stop humanity in the name of replaceable subsets. Just wait for the condor invasion. Dont hunt the otters, dont donate to the regulatory machine.

    • They won’t breed in your backyard. You must be feigning ignorance.

      • Hahahahaha! “But beyond that, there’s a simple reason to save species: because we want to.” Great article by the state sponsored BBC. What a joke. Did you actually read the study this article was based on? Ummmm yea, the sixth great extinction. We are evolving in a cyclical environment. The strongest of which have survived, are the most efficient and durable. Weed out the weak for the next ice age. California Condors and panda bears are simply a spectacle. Outdated and inefficient, they shouldnt be hunted or reintroduced.

        • There is a major, obvious difference between the current circumstance and the five great extinctions that we humans are aware of due to our increasing understanding and awareness which is based on science, based on facts.

          The current circumstance is not yet a “great extinction”. That’s the direction we’re headed in, however we can radically change our behaviours and our stubborn beliefs and go in a different, positive direction, along with all of the rest of the life on our home, Earth.

          Negative perspectives are boring and becoming obsolete. Evolution favors positivity. Nature favors cooperation not competition. Negativity aka spewed invective is competitive, useless and boring.


          “The Holocene extinction, otherwise referred to as the Sixth extinction or Anthropocene extinction, is the ongoing extinction event of species during the present Holocene epoch mainly due to human activity.

          The large number of extinctions span numerous families of plants and animals including mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and arthropods. With widespread degradation of highly biodiverse habitats such as coral reefs and rainforest, as well as other areas, the vast majority are thought to be undocumented. According to the species-area theory and based on upper-bound estimating, the present rate of extinction may be up to 140,000 species per year, making it the greatest loss of biodiversity since the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event.”

          • http://wwf.panda.org/what_we_do/endangered_species/giant_panda/panda/why_we_save_the_giant_panda/

            “…pandas also play a crucial role in China’s bamboo forests by spreading seeds and helping the vegetation to grow.

            So by saving pandas, we will also be saving so much more. We will be helping to protect not only these unique forests but also the wealth of species that live in them, such as dwarf blue sheep and beautiful multi-coloured pheasants.

            And we will be providing a lifeline for a host of other endangered animals, including the golden snub-nosed monkey, takin and crested ibis that share these magnificent forests with the panda.

            The panda’s habitat is also important for the livelihoods of local communities, who use it for food, income, fuel for cooking and heating, and medicine. And for people across the country.

            The panda’s mountains form the watersheds for both the Yangtze and Yellow rivers, which are the economic heart of China – home to hundreds of millions of people. Economic benefits derived from these critical basins include tourism, subsistence fisheries and agriculture, transport, hydropower and water resources.

            So by protecting pandas, we’re helping to safeguard the broader environment, which so many people and animals depend on.

            Pandas themselves are also economically and culturally valuable. They are the national symbol of China and generate significant economic benefits for local communities through ecotourism and other activities.”

            • “…there are many benefits if trying to save the California condor is a success. Such benefits would be that they increase the biodiversity in nature and add to the genetic makeup of the enviornment, also the california Condor could possibly be a keystone species and with the extinction of this speceis will cause a collapse in the ecosystem it inhabits and could cause other speceis to become extinct because of their extinction.

              Lastly because we have taken part in helping the Condor to become endangered we should do everything possible to save them.

              • Holy crap! You do realize everything in that statement is idealistic and not fact based.
                Many benefits:
                1. “increase biodiversity”: increased biodiversity leads to increased competition leads to a higher likelyhood of extinction. Wrap yer head round that one
                2. “add to the genetic makeup of the environment”: Sorry Bub, as good as it sounds, the environment does not have a genetic makeup. Kind of like taking your computer’s blood pressure.
                3. “the california Condor could possibly be a keystone species”,: Sorry it is not. It was extinct in 1987.
                4. “and with the extinction of this speceis (condor) will cause a collapse in the ecosystem it inhabits”: Uuuuuuuum yea it was already extinct in 1987

                The rarest of species is that which contains zero truth, cherish this article before it is gone forever

                • The condors were not actually extinct in 1987. Those left however were all in captivity. I believe your point though was that it couldn’t be a keystone species because it wasn’t in the wild and the ecosystem didn’t collapse.

                  I don’t know whether the Condor is a keystone species. But I would think that 30 years is not long enough to measure the effect of a loss of a species on an ecosystem. The systems evolved over millions of years. It seems likely that measuring the effect of their loss would take substantially longer than 30 years.

            • Hahahahahahahahahahaha! You think bamboo needs help growing!?! Hahahahahahahaha! Seriously, leave your dorm room, plant a seed and get a clue.

              • There’re over 1,400 different species of bamboo worldwide. Most have different requirements for cultivation and growth. Bamboo seeds of most species in China take up to four years after planting to actually sprout. In that time, possible threats to their sprouting include floods, fires, predation by insects, rodents and other mammals, and human developement.

                The interdependence involving plants, fungi and animal species on Earth is vital to the life of most living things on this planet; the bamboos are party to these interdepences.

            • Don’t forget the unicorn, and bamboo needs no help

      • Oh jeeez…. I thought the last one was bad. Did you really read this? Complete bs. Bees are the main contributor of pollination….. Wrong…. Bigly. Declining whale populations lead to:
        “As otter numbers were decimated, the urchins and other targets of otters flourished;
        These decimated the kelp forests where many fish larvae grew in relative protection;
        The exposed fish larvae were easy pickings for a variety of sea life;
        Fishermen’s livelihoods were destroyed”

        Learn the difference between information and solicitation. Or just keep donating to “Support Global Issues.org” Hahahahaha. NONE of the proceeds go to any environmental action. All proceeds go to the owner of the site Hahahahahaha! “If you have found the site to be useful, please consider a donation. Your kind contribution will help me afford more time on the site, pay for running costs, and for research materials”

        • Negativity aka spewed invective is competitive, useless and boring.

          • Sooooooo…. The “We Are All Going To Die Without Pandas” narrative isnt negative. You have zero facts and zero evidence. I do like how you gave an “aka” for negativity. Spewed invective… Wow you must be smart. Stick to creative writing, communication, humanities and all the other nanny state diciplines. Leave science up to the big kids.

  • Voluntary? I’m not familiar with that term. Must be an old fogey’s gramtical error? It is! I remember now. That’s the term they used long ago as a first step towards mandated forced “donations”. Ah yes. Silly me. Is this another one of those preludes? Deja Vu?
    But, fwiw, it’s great to know we can volunteer to donate at this time.

  • Bumblebees were about to be added to the endangered species list…til trump’s new enviornmental destruction agency came to power. 90% of these bees have disappeared in the last 20 years due to habitat destruction & PESTICIDES. We are reaping the whirlwind.

    • 90% of bumble bees! Ha! You mean the rusty patch bumble bee. Non native bees which we have introduced and domesticated get hit hard because of pesticides disease and mites. Here’s a 90% for ya. 90% of pollination is done by flies and wasps.

    • This incredibly informative book is even more relevent now than when first published twenty years ago.


      ‘The Forgotten Pollinators’ by Stephen Buchman and Gary Nabhan (1997)

      “This work looks at the human impact on plants and the animals they depend upon for reproduction. As an increasing number of species are erased by pesticides or habitat disruption, 80 per cent of the human diet is threatened.”

      • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gary_Paul_Nabhan

        “Gary Nabhan is an Agricultural Ecologist, Ethnobotanist, Ecumenical Franciscan Brother, and author whose work has focused primarily on the plants and cultures of the desert Southwest. He is considered a pioneer in the local food movement and the heirloom seed saving movement.”

        “he unifying theme of Nabhan’s work is how to avert the impoverishment and endangerment of ecological and cultural relationships,while celebrating the traditional ecological knowledge of the agrarian communities. He has played a catalytic role in the multicultural, collaborative conservation movement, being one of the co-authors of its populist manifesto, “An Invitation to Join the Radical Center”.

        Nabhan was among the first creative non-fiction writers to link the loss of biodiversity to the loss of cultural diversity.”

  • All animals deserve to live!!! If their here it’s for a reason

  • Here’s one for books/.coms the black rhino is officially extinct. Close relatives still exist “Darwins theory”.

  • https:/www.liveleak.com/view?i=0e7_1420745413

  • Why not use the $0.10 a bag monies.

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