Campaign for New Wildlife License Plate Gains Momentum

Sponsors File Application, Announce Support:

(11/01/1997) - Tallahassee, FL -- Efforts to raise millions of dollars for wildlife conservation in Florida through a new license plate featuring the Florida black bear gained momentum today as sponsors submitted 15,000 signatures to the Florida Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and announced support from Representative Sharon Merchant (R-N. Palm Beach) and Senator Charlie Crist (R-St. Petersburg), two key members of the Florida Legislature.

Signatures to establish the Conserve Wildlife plate were submitted by Defenders of Wildlife, the Florida Chapter of the Sierra Club and the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission as part of a formal application to the DMV. The Florida Legislature must still approve the proposed plate before Florida motorists can purchase it.

The legislation necessary to create the new specialty plate will be sponsored by Rep. Sharon Merchant and Sen. Charlie Crist. Rep. Merchant chairs the House Committee on Transportation & Economic Development (Fiscal), which has responsibility for bills to establish new specialty license plates. Sen. Crist has served in the Legislature since 1992 and chairs the Senate Committee on Executive Business, Ethics & Elections.

"The outpouring of support we have received from citizens throughout the state and the leadership of Rep. Merchant and Senator Crist give us confidence that the Conserve Wildlife plate will be approved by the legislature next spring," said Laurie Macdonald of Defenders of Wildlife. Through its Habitat for Bears Campaign, a citizen effort organized jointly with the Sierra Club, Defenders played a leading role in coordinating a successful petition drive throughout Florida which garnered 5,000 more signatures than required. The group has also provided the $30,000 application fee.

Revenues from the $15 fee for the optional Conserve Wildlife plate would dramatically boost funding for various research, habitat, education and law enforcement programs undertaken by the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission. These programs would benefit a broad spectrum of Florida's wildlife.

Recent panther and manatee license plates in the state each have generated $18 million in just seven years. "The potential for an overall wildlife license plate is even greater," said Macdonald, who coordinates the Habitat for Bears Campaign in the state for Defenders. "This plate will help conserve the diversity of wildlife that makes Florida such a very special part of the world. By purchasing this plate, citizens will be helping Florida wildlife from A to Z including anhingas, bears, cranes, eagles, falcons, gopher tortoises, herons, ibis, scrub jays, loons, owls, panthers, roseate spoonbills, sea turtles, wildflowers, the recently designated state butterfly, the Zebra swallow tail and many more."

The new license plate design, developed by Peggy Perkerson, a Game Commission employee and freelance artist, features a black bear because that particular species has raised public awareness of the need to protect healthy ecosystems and preserve key habitat for endangered, threatened, or imperilled species. Some of the revenues will fund biological research, public education and other programs that benefit the bear as well as many other Florida species.

Camera-ready images for the Conserve Wildlife plate are available from Defenders of Wildlife.



Cat Lazaroff, (202) 772-3270