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This article was copied from the TP&W newsstand

Dec. 9, 2002

Conservation Charities Allow Tax-Deductible Giving
AUSTIN, Texas -- At year's end, many people make charitable gifts that provide income tax deductions, and some choose conservation causes. Donors can support state parks, wildlife management areas or fish hatcheries, fund game management or wildlife research, help catch wildlife criminals or even adopt a prairie chicken.

The Parks and Wildlife Foundation of Texas, Inc. is the official nonprofit partner of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. It was established in 1991 to assist TPWD in protecting the unique natural and cultural heritage of Texas, and to ensure full outdoor opportunities for future generations. The foundation holds federal tax-exempt status under section 501©(3) of the Internal Revenue Service Code and is further classified as an organization that primarily supports a government agency's operations as defined by section 509(a)(3).

The foundation accepts gifts from individuals and organizations ranging from just a few dollars to millions of dollars. Donors can pick from a wide variety of wildlife conservation, outdoor recreation, environmental education and historical preservation projects, and all donations are tax deductible to the greatest extent allowed by law.

The Lone Star Legacy fundraising campaign announced in 1998 by then-Gov. George W. Bush is a flagship program of the foundation. The goal is to fund operating endowments for each state park and other TPWD sites and to build new conservation facilities. (Many state parks and other sites have local friends groups that can also accept tax-deductible donations.)

"Alongside the $10 million endowment campaign to help operate state parks and other sites, we also have a $15 million capital campaign to build visitors centers, hiking and biking trails, parking lots, and research areas," said Nichole Briscoe of the foundation. "In some cases, this is on property that TPWD already owns, but doesn't have the funds to go in and build the infrastructure to open the sites to the public."

Briscoe said Legacy endowment fund donors can earmark their gift for an individual state park, fish hatchery or wildlife management area, or can give to the entire system. As money in endowment accounts grows, a portion of the interest becomes available to help operate and improve conservation facilities.

To get Lone Star Legacy information or donate online, visit the Web (http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/admin/legacy/). Or for broader information about the Parks and Wildlife Foundation, visit the organization's Web site (http://www.pwftx.org/).

Another conservation gift option is the Special Nongame & Endangered Species Conservation Fund created by the Texas Legislature in 1983 to underwrite conservation and management of Texas' nongame and endangered wildlife. This fund, sustained entirely by voluntary contributions and purchases of nongame art prints, supports a variety of projects benefiting nongame and endangered species.

The Adopt-A-Prairie Chicken project accepts tax-deductible gifts of $25 to cover the cost of feeding insects to one Attwater's prairie chicken chick from the time of hatching until it is old enough to eat commercial food. Donors also are mailed information and photos, plus given opportunities for special trips to see the endangered birds in the wild.

For more information about donations to the Non Game fund or Adopt A Prairie Chicken, phone (800) 792-1112, press zero for the operator and ask for extension 4644.

Another donation opportunity is Operation Game Thief, Texas' wildlife crime-stoppers program. It offers rewards of as much as $1,000 for information leading to an arrest and conviction in a wildlife crime case. Begun in 1981 as a result of laws passed by the 67th Legislature to help curtail poaching, the program, a function of the TPWD Law Enforcement Division, is highly successful, having paid out more than $160,000 in rewards.

OGT tips have helped solve thousands of crimes, including numerous high profile poaching cases involving game species like deer and bass, as well as offenses against nongame or rare species such as bald eagles and sea turtles.

In 1993, the legislature added a section to the OGT statute authorizing the payment of a death benefit to families of TPWD peace officers killed in the line of duty. On Aug. 2, 2001, this provision made possible the delivery of a check for $10,000 to the family of Game Warden Michael Pauling within 12 hours of his death, helping to relieve the stressful burden of immediate financial needs. Pauling was killed after stopping to assist a woman apparently in distress on the shoulder of the road. Pauling's killer was convicted in September and sentenced to 55 years in prison.

Privately funded, OGT depends on financial support from the public through the purchase of OGT memberships and merchandise, donations, sponsorships, and gifts. For more information, including details about the OGT fundraiser in Houston on May 17, contact Buddy Turner, TPWD assistant chief of wildlife law enforcement, at (512) 389-4626. To join, purchase or donate online, visit the program Web site (http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/involved/enforcement/ogt/).
 


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