Floridians "Conserve Wildlife" With New Specialty License Plate

(05/17/1999) - Tallahassee, FL - Defenders of Wildlife, Florida Sierra Club, Florida Game & Fresh Water Fish Commission, and Wildlife Foundation of Florida, Inc. today announced the new Conserve Wildlife specialty license plate featuring the state-threatened Florida black bear is available to the public. The new tag is the first to benefit all Florida wildlife species, and can be purchased at county tag offices throughout the state.

"Defenders of Wildlife expects the Conserve Wildlife plate tag to raise millions of dollars for Florida's wildlife. Based on the popularity of other wildlife-oriented specialty plates in Florida, we believe the potential for this beautiful wildlife tag is even greater," said Rodger Schlickeisen, President of Defenders of Wildlife, a national nonprofit conservation group spearheading the license plate campaign. The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles reports the two best-selling specialty tags for the last three years (1996-1998) were wildlife related - the manatee and panther tags.

Revenues from the $15 fee forthe optional Conserve Wildlife plate will dramatically boost funding for various wildlife research, habitat management, environmental education and law enforcement programs undertaken by the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission. The unique objective of the Conserve Wildlife plate is that unlike other wildlife tags, which primarily fund conservation of specific species, these programs would benefit a broad spectrum of Florida's wildlife.

"The Conserve Wildlife plate is beautifully designed. The tags represent a wonderful and convenient way for people to contribute to wildlife protection in Florida," said Laurie Macdonald, Senior Field Coordinator of Defenders of Wildlife's Habitat for Bears Campaign. "It is particularly fitting for vehicle owners to take this opportunity to purchase the $15 tag because vehicles and roads have an immense impact on wildlife and their habitat."

The primary threats to the Florida black bear are increased development and road construction. Roadkills, nearly 90 of which claimed bears statewide in 1998, are the leading direct cause of mortality for Florida black bears.

The license plate design features a Florida black bear amidst palmetto and sawgrass with a snowy egret in flight. The black bear was chosen because that particular species has raised public awareness of the need to protect healthy ecosystems and preserve key habitat for endangered, threatened, and imperiled species.

The Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission presented a plaque of the first Conserve Wildlife plate to the Habitat for Bears Campaign for its leadership in initiating the new tag effort. The bears campaign, a joint effort of Defenders of Wildlife and the Florida Chapter of the Sierra Club, collected more than 15,000 petition signatures and raised a $30,000 application fee.

Working with the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission, the campaign also produced a statewide marketing plan and gained legislative approval for the specialty plate. The Habitat for Bears Campaign works to ensure the long-term survival of the imperiled Florida black bear through grassroots advocacy and public education at the regional, state, and national levels.



Cat Lazaroff, (202) 772-3270