Wildlife license plates — where are we now?
By Rhiannon Jakopak, Legislative Affairs Committee Chair
October 1, 2019
Wildlife-vehicle collisions are a seemingly inevitable, and often devastating, part of living alongside wildlife. Techniques such as installing wildlife crossings can reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions, but these measures cost millions of dollars to implement along a single stretch of highway. To help raise the funds necessary to tackle this conservation issue, the Wyoming State Legislature signed the Wildlife conservation license plates bill into law in March 2018. According to this bill, proceeds from the sales of wildlife-themed license plates will be allocated to fund the installation of wildlife crossings, game fences, and signage, ultimately working to reduce collisions. In the 18 months since being signed into law, where are we now?
The license plates first became available for purchase on January 1, 2019. Since then, over 1100 sets of license plates have been sold, according to Jeff Cowley, the chair of the Southeast Chapter of the Muley Fanatic Foundation, who is a part of the Wyoming Wildlife and Roadways Initiative. The sales from the license plates, which cost $150 the first year with a $50 annual fee after that, have raised $168,750 to date. The bill required that 1,000 sets be sold before December 31, 2023, or the plates would no longer be available. The plates reached this goal within the first 8 months, which means that the plates will be permanently available.
The highest priority project in Wyoming for reducing wildlife-vehicle collisions is the 25 mile stretch outside of Dubois. In this area, vehicle collisions with mule deer are a problem throughout the year, and bighorn sheep foraging near the road is also cause for concern. At this time, the Wyoming Department of Transportation is working to identify appropriate and effective ways forward. Funds from the license plates may be directed to these high-priority projects. Other high-priority projects include Walcott Junction outside of Laramie, the stretch of road between Big Piney and La Barge, and a stretch northeast of Cody.
This bill — supported by the Wyoming Chapter of The Wildlife Society and other organizations across the state — is still in its infancy. However, the participation so far suggests that funds raised will be key in efforts to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions and conserve wildlife throughout Wyoming.