New License Plate Proposed to Raise Millions for Florida Wildlife

(06/04/1997) - Tallahassee, FL - Defenders of Wildlife, the Florida Game & Fresh Water Fish Commission, and the Wildlife Foundation of Florida today kicked off a new statewide campaign to raise millions of dollars for conservation programs that protect Florida's diverse wildlife through the creation of a new license plate. The statewide campaign is the first step in establishing the new plate, which must ultimately receive consideration and approval by the Florida legislature.

Laurie Macdonald of Defenders of Wildlife, a national nonprofit conservation group spearheading the license campaign, said, "Florida's rapid growth - expanding its population by 500 to 1,000 new people each day - means that we must find additional ways of enhancing funding for a broad array of critical wildlife conservation programs as well as supporting new programs."

Revenues from the $15 fee for this optional 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. The nonprofit Wildlife Foundation of Florida would be the agent to receive and dispense plate revenues to the commission.

Speakers at the press conference noted that recent panther and manatee license plates in the state each have generated $17 million in just seven years. "The potential for an overall wildlife license plate is even greater," said Macdonald, who heads 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, dolphins, eagles, falcons, gopher tortoises, herons, ibis, scrub jays, Key deer, loons, manatees, 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 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.

Robert Dewey, Director of Habitat Conservation for Defenders of Wildlife, noted after the unveiling today that, "The black bear featured on the proposed design is a powerful symbol of the many species that are protected by preserving habitat for far-ranging animals that use many of Florida's natural areas."

Defenders and the Habitat for Bears campaign will be circulating petitions for the license plate throughout the state. Under Florida law, at least 10,000 signatures from registered vehicle owners in the state are needed by December 1 to place the measure before the Florida legislature next spring.

Macdonald says, "A pledge to buy a bear plate is really a pledge to help all of Florida's wildlife. Today we call on all Floridians to sign our petition and show their support for conserving Florida's wildlife heritage. Because so many of Florida's residents moved here to better appreciate our world-famous wildlife, we are confident the public will welcome this opportunity to contribute to conservation by displaying this beautiful new plate."

Allan Egbert, Executive Director of the commission, adds, "Floridians traditionally love wildlife, and they have every right to expect us to be innovative and tireless in our efforts to manage wildlife for them. This proposed license plate will open a channel for people to contribute money voluntarily to support the resources that enrich their daily lives and lend so much to the character of Florida."

The Habitat for Bears Campaign, a statewide citizen effort, will take the lead in collecting the necessary petition signatures. Sponsored jointly by Defenders of Wildlife and the Florida Chapter of the Sierra Club, the Habitat for Bears Campaign works to save the imperiled Florida black bear and the many other plants and animals in the bear's native community.

Camera-ready copies of the design are available from Defenders of Wildlife. For more information or copies of petitions, contact the Habitat for Bears Campaign at 103 Wildwood Lane, St. Petersburg, Florida 33705 at 800-989-8981 x248.



Cat Lazaroff, (202) 772-3270