Specialty plates provide needed funds for nongame wildlife programs

Staff reportNovember 2, 2013 

The sale of personalized license plate now contributes more than $2 million annually to the state Department of Fish and Wildlife program that manages of all species that are not hunted, fished or trapped. At the heart of the program’s mission is the restoration and acquisition of important habitats, which also benefit game species.

Wednesday is the 40th anniversary of voters’ approving a referendum to allow Washington drivers to personalize their license plates and help the state’s wildlife along the way.

“While people select plates for a variety of reasons, personalized license plates allow people interested in all aspects of wildlife — from big game hunting to bird watching — to promote their passions and contribute to conservation of species and habitats important to all wildlife in our state,” Phil Anderson, department director, said in an agency news release.

Revenue from personalized license plate funds an array of projects within the department’s Wildlife Diversity Program. The funded efforts focus on maintaining and restoring healthy ecosystems, recovering threatened and endangered species, conducting field surveys of wildlife and their habitats, sponsoring research projects and acquiring valuable habitats and conservation easements that benefit wildlife.

Among the species helped by such projects are bald eagles, sea otters and marbled murrelets.

Overall, about 90,000 personalized plates are sold each year generating $2.6 million for the nongame wildlife programs. Since 2007, the state also has offered five wildlife-themed specialized plates that help fund programs. There are plates with background images of an orca, black bear, deer, elk and bald eagle.

Helen Engle is among a handful of advocates from the environmental community who helped build a broad-based collation to encourage passage of the legislation.

“It was, and still is, so exciting to know that we fought hard and won for wildlife, but, really, everybody wins,” the University Place resident said in the release. “Seeing all of the state’s wildlife being recognized and carefully managed by WDFW makes me very happy. So does my license plate, ‘TOWHEE,’ named after one of my favorite songbirds.”

Wayne Marion, a retired senior regional director for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, said he purchased personalized license plates for more than one reason.

“I bought two plates — ‘ELKGUY’ and ‘ELKGUY2’ — as a statement of support for conservation of all wildlife and as a reflection of my personal and professional interest and passion for elk and elk hunting,” Marion said in the release.

Elizabeth Rodrick is a former department biologist and a personalized license plate owner who was an early proponent of better funding for nongame wildlife management.

“I bought a personalized license plate and put ‘HABITAT’ on it to remind me of the 20-year effort of WDFW biologists working with landowners on eagle habitat management plans to recover the population,” Rodrick said in the release. “I worry about where we would be today without funding from personalized license plate sales. That legislation made, and continues to make, a world of difference for all of Washington’s wildlife.”

You can learn more about speciality plates at dol.wa.gov.

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