License plates for steelhead conservation in Washington could become a reality, but not without support from potential purchasers.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife recently proposed the idea of a special license plate that would depict a wild steelhead, that would attempt to generate revenue in support of the conservation of native populations of the iconic fish.
Many parts of Washington list the native steelhead under the federal Endangered Species Act, granting it certain protections. The populations, which haven’t reached sustainable levels for some time, need a full slate of fisheries management, hatchery operations, and habitat-restoration programs to bounce back.
According to the Northwest Sportsman Magazine blog, Ann Larson, the agency’s legislative liason, says a range of angling groups have already voiced their support, including Puget Sound Anglers, the Steelhead Trout Club of Washington and Steelhead Coalition.
The earliest a plate could be available would be January 2017. Modeling forecasts it may raise up to $200,000 a year starting with fiscal year 2018, and $400,000 each biennium — “a substantial chunk of money,” she says.
WDFW says the new plate that would raise an estimated $200,000 each year to:
- Apply new techniques to improve estimates of the number of wild steelhead on the spawning grounds, and ensure that the population numbers are consistent with the productivity of the river.
- Bolster efforts to monitor interactions between wild and hatchery steelhead to help ensure future hatchery steelhead production and management actions support the recovery of wild stocks.
- Increase creel surveys to improve estimates for the number of wild steelhead harvested in fisheries and the number of wild steelhead caught and released by anglers.
Currently, the wildlife-themed background plates will cost drivers $54 to $72 depending on the vehicle, plus the regular license fees.
Before the proposal is fully considered by the state legislature, the WDFW has to prove an intend to purchase for at least 3,500 plates. Drivers can stick one on their cars, motorcycles and trailers.
You can sign the petition to show your support by pledging to purchase one of these specialty plates on the WDFW website. (Signing the petition does obligate you to purchase the plate).