The Humboldt Chimney Swifts were about to lose the chimney where they lived.
Four years ago, school officials prepared to destroy the abandoned boiler chimney where a large colony of Chimney Swifts nested and roosted at Humboldt High School in Allen County, 111 miles south/south -east of Topeka.
But the charitable Kansans ensured that the birds received help.
Donations to the Chickadee Checkoff maintained by the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks helped pay for the construction of a new habitat on the school grounds including a chimney swift nest tower and a bat house to provide much-needed shelter for both species.
A year later, “several dozen chimney swifts were observed roosting at night in the newly constructed tower, and evidence of new nests was also found,” the KDWP website said.
Where does the money go?
One of the primary purposes of the Chickadee Checkoff is to fund projects such as Humboldt’s.
For decades, Kansas state income tax forms asked residents if they wanted to make a tax-deductible donation to this fund.
A state law passed in 1980 created the levy, said J. Daren Riedle, wildlife diversity coordinator for KDWP.
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The levy does not only help the tits.
The projects it funds benefit more than 4,500 birds, fish, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, crustaceans and molluscs that are not game species and are not hunted, fished or trapped in Kansas, said Nadia Reimer, Head of Public Affairs of KDWP.
“In other words, if you want money to go to projects to help eagles, songbirds, threatened and endangered species, turtles, lizards, butterflies and river fish natives, it gives you the option to donate directly to these programs,” the KDWP website said.
Check donations helped fund projects that included building nesting boxes for purple swallows in partnership with Lawrence US$497 and creating an outdoor learning area and pollination field at the school Jackson Heights secondary.
Contributions also help provide “educational programs in schools, eco-meets, eco-thons, and materials like pocket guides and books,” the checkoff website says.
How is it going in terms of income?
“Private donations are crucial to fund this lifesaving species as proceeds from Chickadee Checkoff are matched by federal funds,” Reimer said in a press release this month. “Contributions have been steadily declining in recent years, making it imperative for the Kansans to tick the Chickadee Checkoff box this year.”
In contrast, donations to Iowa’s Chickadee Checkoff rose last year by nearly $25,000, the largest such increase in 24 years, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources announced Jan. 25. .
However, he said the number of people donating to that fund has continually declined, to the point where donors represent only about 0.5% of Iowa’s total taxpayers.
KDWP did not have figures available Tuesday showing how much the levy has increased each year in recent years in Kansas.
By the end of 2011, it had brought in an average of $143,000 a year, according to Topeka Capital-Journal records.
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How is the direct debit promoted?
KDWP last June launched a new payment marketing campaign.
It features the slogan “Be a force for nature,” said Riedle, the wildlife diversity coordinator.
The agency also began promoting and advertising the levy on social media, he said.
A short commercial video that KDWP posted online shows a turkey vulture having dinner at their home with a family of four as the two children look on suspiciously.
“There’s a better way to support Kansas wildlife,” says the advertiser.
Actors in the commercial include Topekan Dusty Nichols.
Riedle said it’s too early to tell how effective the marketing campaign has been, “as we’re still in the middle of the first tax season since the new program launched.”
Donations to the levy on tax forms typically range between $1 and $200, he said.
Riedle said, “By contributing to the fund, with a tax-deductible donation, you are actively helping to conserve our state’s diverse wildlife and our natural heritage and heritage for future generations.”
He said donors can contribute to the levy on their Kansas state income tax forms or by going online at https://chickadeecheckoff.com.
Tim Hrenchir can be reached at [email protected] or 785-213-5934.