RELEASE: Feb. 23, 2012 – Volume XLV, No. 8
If there’s one thing no one likes – except accountants – it’s doing tax returns. On the other hand, one thing that thrills just about everyone is glimpsing a bald eagle soaring overhead or perched atop a tall tree.
Did you know these seemingly unrelated things are actually closely linked?
A check-off box on New Jersey’s 1040 income tax form encourages residents to contribute part of their tax refunds to the New Jersey Endangered Wildlife Fund. Donated dollars go directly to Endangered and Nongame Species Program (ENSP) to help restore, conserve and enhance the Garden State’s population of rare and endangered plants and animals.
And if there’s one poster child – or “poster bird” – for our state’s endangered species program, it’s the bald eagle.
Bald eagles were on the brink of extinction in this state we’re in as of 1979, with just a solitary nesting pair. Residues of the pesticide DDT from the 1950s and 1960s were still causing thin, fragile eggshells that crushed under the weight of the adult eagles.
With the help of Endangered and Nongame Species biologists, and the ban on DDT and other pesticides, bald eagles have made a slow, steady comeback over the past three decades. 2011 was a banner year for reproduction, with 113 nesting pairs and 119 fledged chicks. A January bird count found well over 300 eagles making their homes in New Jersey.
Bald eagles are now a refreshingly common sight in the Delaware Bay region of Cumberland and Salem Counties. The Bayshore’s broad expanses of coastal wetlands provide plentiful fishing grounds.
The eagles are also expanding northward as their population grows, and their nesting range now includes 18 of New Jersey’s 21 counties. They’re still a rare sight in many places. Recently, a bald eagle perched in a tree directly above busy Route 202-206 in Bedminster, Somerset County, created a minor traffic jam as motorists pulled over and grabbed binoculars and cameras.
Eagles aren’t the only endangered and threatened species that benefit from the income tax check-off.
- Bobcats were reintroduced to New Jersey 30 years ago and are securing haunts in the northern third of the state. They’re incredibly secretive and rarely seen.
- Peregrine falcons – the fastest of the world’s birds – disappeared from New Jersey in the 1960s, primarily due to pesticides. But a reintroduction project and intensive management have resulted in a stable population of about 20 nesting pairs, including some in major cities.
Dozens of other birds, mammals, fish, amphibians, reptiles and insects in New Jersey are also helped by the Endangered and Nongame Species Program. Migratory bird species from Tierra del Fuego at the tip of South America to the Canadian arctic also benefit from the program’s research.
With tax season upon us, please consider donating part of your refund to the Endangered and Nongame Species Program through the tax return check-off. Your contribution will support a worthy program whose success stories can be witnessed in the air, land and water!
Take it a step farther by letting their world know you support conservation; get a special “Conserve Wildlife” license plate for your car.
Funds from tax return check-offs and conservation license plate sales totaled about $2 million over the past five years, and made New Jersey eligible for federal and international matching grants, further leveraging funds for this critical conservation work.
For more information on New Jersey’s endangered and threatened species, go to www.nj.gov/dep/fgw/ensphome.htm. This webpage includes information on how to help these species through both the tax return check-off and Conserve Wildlife license plates.
And if you’d like more information about conserving New Jersey’s precious land and natural resources, please visit New Jersey Conservation Foundation’s website at www.njconservation.org or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.