SHERIDAN — Wilderness conservation efforts can now be found on streets of Sheridan County and the state of Wyoming. Since their release on Jan. 1, 600 new specialty plates with a focus on wildlife have been sold across the state.
These plates feature a mule deer in a picturesque plain, representing the cause these plates are supporting. The essence of the license plate is intended to raise awareness for Wyoming citizens about wildlife conservation and protecting wildlife migration routes. The state Legislature passed and the Wyoming Transportation Commission then approved the design last year.
This plate is one of 13 specialty plates in the state of Wyoming and one of the most drastically different in terms of visual design. The initial application fee for this plate is $180. Of the initial fee, $150 goes to the conservation fund and $30 toward the specialty plate fee and another $50 for an embossed plate.
Most plate fees for passenger cars are only $30, and prices vary for trucks. After initial costs, purchasers of this plate will pay $50 each year as an annual fee for the plate.
All requests and transactions can be conducted through the county treasurer’s office. There are no limits on the number of plates that can be sold.
The cost comes from the goal to raise money for the Wildlife Conservation Fund. The Wyoming Department of Transportation allocates the funds raised by the license plate toward the conservation fund to aid their efforts.
As it corresponds to both human and animal traffic, the proceeds from the specialty plate will include signage, animal crossings, fences and other related work.
“These (types of) projects significantly decreased wildlife/vehicle collisions,” said Christina Schmidt, Public Information Specialist for the Sheridan Game and Fish Department. “They do work incredibly efficiently, close to 80-90 percent decrease in collisions, if you’re careful about where you put them. Moving forward, hopefully more funding will go towards mitigation efforts,” Schmidt said.
Annually, there are between 2,696 and 3,058 reported accidents between wildlife and vehicles on Wyoming highways. By purchasing these specialty plates, funding would go toward building animal crossings, which have been proven to decrease collisions significantly.
Although WYDOT maintains the Wildlife Conservation Account, the conservation plate is the product of cooperation between WYDOT and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. Over the years, both agencies have worked together to address wildlife connectivity issues. WYDOT will be listening to the concerns of the public and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to conduct its fund distribution and use.
In Sheridan County alone, 16 plates have been sold in the last three months. Although the public has expressed their interest in the creation of these plates, the sales have been about average in comparison to other specialty plates.
“People wait until they need to renew their licenses to purchase the specialty plates,” Sheridan County Treasurer Carol Grandahl said. “We can expect sales to increase throughout the year as people’s tags expire.”
By relating human and animal traffic, WYDOT is responding to the public’s interest in wildlife conservation and raising money to protect migration routes of local wildlife.
By Marissa Brenneman