Ohioans can support the beauty of the state’s natural world by simply checking a box on their tax return. Donations to Ohio’s Wildlife Diversity or State Nature Preserves funds are administered by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR).
The Buckeye State is home to an amazing collection of high-quality forest, prairie, wetland, and streamside habitats that support thousands of native plant and wildlife species. Donations from this program protect those areas, allowing plants and wildlife to thrive.
“Habitat protection is key to strengthening Ohio’s endangered plant and animal communities,” ODNR Director Mary Mertz said. “Through their generosity, Ohioans have been some of our greatest partners in natural resources preservation and habitat management, helping people discover the beauty found throughout our state.”
One recent success story is that of the Allegheny woodrat, a unique, furry mammal living on rocky cliffs in southwest Ohio. Last year, the ODNR Division of Wildlife celebrated a milestone as nine woodrats were relocated and released along the Ohio River to boost genetic diversity. With its emphasis on permanently protecting unique and endangered ecosystems, ODNR designated four new state nature preserves last year, including the first one in Cuyahoga County.
The ODNR Division of Wildlife manages the Wildlife Diversity Fund, relying primarily on donations to support restoration work of the state’s species of greatest conservation need. In the past, donations to the Wildlife Diversity Fund have supported projects to restore lake sturgeon, freshwater mussel, eastern hellbender, and monarch butterfly populations. The bald eagle, once endangered in the state, benefits from the Wildlife Diversity Fund, and more than 900 bald eagle pairs now nest statewide. Donations also fund free informational field guides, posters, and educational exhibits.
Donations to the State Nature Preserves Fund support the work of the ODNR Division of Natural Areas and Preserves in protecting exceptional habitats within Ohio’s 146 state nature preserves and 15 state scenic rivers. Donations are used to provide a chance for Ohioans to discover the wonders of these special places. The fund also supports critical ecological management, including efforts to remove invasive species that pose a growing threat to fragile landscapes.
With the assistance of Ohio income tax refund donations, the division protected more than 1,300 acres of high-quality habitat new preserves in Butler, Cuyahoga, Hocking, Lucas, Madison, and Vinton counties. The division also established its first public scenic river area along the Ashtabula State Scenic River offering hiking, hunting, and fishing opportunities. Additionally, the division installed two accessible trails at Chaparral Prairie in southern Ohio and Stage’s Pond in central Ohio; both sites are now open to visitors of all abilities. Further, new signage sharing informative details about unique ecosystems and native plant and animal communities was installed at five preserves this year.
By making a tax donation to either the Wildlife Diversity Fund or Ohio State Nature Preserves on this year’s tax return, Ohioans are helping to ensure the future of Ohio’s diverse ecosystems. Individuals may donate all or part of their state income tax refund by entering a dollar amount for “Wildlife Species” on line 26b or “State Nature Preserves” on line 26e of the 2023 IT 1040 tax form. Contributions made on the 2023 tax return and filed in 2024 are considered deductible donations made in 2024.
For more information on the ODNR Division of Natural Areas and Preserves or how to donate to Ohio State Nature Preserves and Scenic Rivers, visit the natural areas and preserves donation webpage. For more information on the ODNR Division of Wildlife and the Wildlife Diversity Fund, visit the wildlife conservation donation website.
Learn how to donate your income tax refund by visiting ODNR’s tax donation website.
Submitted by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.