Personalized License plates — Automotive Style for Species Conservation

Washington has more than 260 species of greatest conservation need (SGCN), many of which are listed as threatened or endangered. The current budget for conservation of Washington’s SGCN species is vastly insufficient to meet conservation and recovery goals. It is estimated that WDFW has five percent of the funding needed to adequately conserve the state’s biodiversity.

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Personalized plate on “wildlife watching” eagle background

Decreased revenue from personalized license plate sales, currently a $1 million dollar per biennium shortfall, is eroding a key funding source for the agency’s work to conserve this biodiversity.

Continuing this important work is crucial to keeping Washington’s common species common and preventing future federal Endangered Species Act listings.

For more than 45 years, the sale of personalized license plates — the plates where citizens choose a special message on a standard or specialized background plate — has been a primary source of funding for the management of non-game wildlife, including peregrine falcons, pygmy rabbits, and killer whales.

· A portion of those fees — $2 from each personalized license plate purchased — supports the care and rehabilitation of sick, injured or orphaned wildlife.

· In addition, $10 per personalized license plate helps fund the management and conservation of wolves in Washington. These funds support activities such as monitoring wolves, preventing wolf-livestock conflicts, and compensating livestock owners for losses from wolf kills.

· The remaining revenue help fund the management of more than 260 species of concern. Some of these species are classified as threatened or endangered.

Decreased revenue from personalized license plate sales is eroding the agency’s capacity to conserve biodiversity

In addition to asking for your support when making license plate choices, the Department has submitted a budget request to the 2021 legislature to secure ongoing funding from the state general fund to offset imminent cuts to our biodiversity conservation capacity. Without that appropriation, the Department will need to cut work in landscape level conservation and habit management coordination, data management that helps us understand species status, and conservation projects that benefit species of greatest conservation need from bats to birds of prey, amphibians, reptiles and marine mammals.

I personalized my plate. What else can my license plate choices do?

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Lots of background options!

Beyond personalizing your plate, there are background options . . .

· Sales of the endangered wildlife plate, which features a killer whale, are used specifically for the recovery of Washington’s threatened and endangered species. A variety of recovery efforts — including sage grouse reintroductions and sea otter population surveys — are funded by plate sales.

· Revenue from the steelhead license plate supports activities critical to conserving populations of native steelhead.

· Wildlife viewing activities, such as the development of wildlife watching trails and webcams, benefit each time a Washington resident buys a wildlife watching plate, which features a bald eagle as the background.

· WDFW uses fees collected through sales of game management plates — displaying a deer, elk or black bear — to manage game animals in Washington. Management activities include improvement of public access opportunities as well as wildlife population monitoring.

Move the message beyond the plate . . .

Insufficient funds for supporting wildlife through personalized license plates means hard choices for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife with bearing on the future of nature in the state. Without funding, there will be less habitat restoration, less species monitoring and research declines forced upon the agency as soon as next July.

A gap of continuity in care for nature could eventually lead to loss of habitat and continued trouble for Washington’s most vulnerable and beloved species.

While the agency is looking forward to potential good news from the legislature with regard to funding in the 2021 session, now is a great time to spread the word on what personalized plates mean for nature in Washington. If anyone you know has an interest in or love for fish and wildlife please ask them to represent that care in their license plate choices.

Written by

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is dedicated to preserving, protecting and perpetuating the state’s fish and wildlife resources.

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