Ve­hi­cle of sup­port

Groups work to im­ple­ment con­ser­va­tion li­cence plates in N.L.

The Packet (Clarenville) - - Sports - BY JUANITA MERCER [email protected]­gram.com Twit­ter: @juani­ta­mercer_

If the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment is will­ing, res­i­dents in this prov­ince could some­day use their li­cence plates to sup­port con­ser­va­tion ef­forts.

The pro­vin­cial chap­ter of the Cana­dian Parks and Wilder­ness So­ci­ety (C-PAWS-NL) is lead­ing the charge on im­ple­ment­ing con­ser­va­tion li­cence plates – a vol­un­tary pro­gram in which res­i­dents pay a small fee to get a spe­cial li­cence plate fea­tur­ing plants or an­i­mals na­tive to the prov­ince.

The funds raised would be dis­persed an­nu­ally to con­ser­va­tion groups.

It’s a pro­gram that has found suc­cess in many other ju­ris­dic­tions for some time.

Last year alone, a sim­i­lar pro­gram in New Brunswick brought in $380,000 from 55,000 con­ser­va­tion plates. That prov­ince has gen­er­ated nearly $4 mil­lion for con­ser­va­tion groups since 1998 through the li­cence plate pro­gram.

“It’s an ini­tia­tive that works, so it’s kind of a no-brainer,” said C-PAWS-NL con­ser­va­tion co­or­di­na­tor Kathy Unger.

“It will cre­ate or at least keep peo­ple in their jobs, and it’s go­ing to ben­e­fit a lot of ar­eas of the en­vi­ron­ment, not just one niche species or just one part of the prov­ince – it can have a re­ally far reach.”

About a year ago, Unger thought about try­ing to im­ple­ment the pro­gram in New­found­land and Labrador. Since then, she has re­ceived 20 let­ters of sup­port from en­vi­ron­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions across the prov­ince.

Unger has also gained the sup­port of at least one ma­jor deal­er­ship in the prov­ince – Cap­i­tal Auto Group.

“We were ex­cited when CPAWS brought this idea to us at Cap­i­tal Subaru given that the Subaru brand is one that is very heav­ily fo­cused on the en­joy­ment and ap­pre­ci­a­tion of na­ture,” Matt Kel­land, direc­tor of mar­ket­ing for Cap­i­tal Auto Group, stated in an email to The Tele­gram.

“We un­der­stand that projects like this one have been very suc­cess­ful else­where in Canada and are hope­ful that we’ll see a li­cence plate pro­gram emerge here in the prov­ince that we can sup­port across all Cap­i­tal Auto Group deal­er­ships.”

The hur­dle is try­ing to get an au­di­ence with the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment.

“It’s been al­most a year of just, ‘Please lis­ten to my idea,’” Unger said.

How­ever, she said the prov­ince would not be “go­ing in blindly.”

“The big plus for this pro­gram is it’s been done be­fore in many, many other places.”

Through­out her re­search, she has re­ceived ad­vice from groups in New Brunswick and Prince Ed­ward Is­land about how the pro­grams work there.

Pow­er­ful vis­ual state­ment

Unger said the li­cence plates would also make a pow­er­ful vis­ual state­ment, em­pha­siz­ing the prov­ince’s com­mit­ment to its val­ued nat­u­ral her­itage.

There could also be an op­por­tu­nity for pub­lic in­put about which iconic species peo­ple would like to see on the plates.

“It could be a puf­fin, or a pitcher plant, or a whale, or a cari­bou – we have re­ally spe­cial species in the prov­ince.”

Lo­gis­ti­cally, the funds from the con­ser­va­tion plates would be man­aged by a vol­un­tary con­ser­va­tion fund com­mit­tee made up of rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Indige­nous, hunt­ing, an­gling, trap­ping, nat­u­ral­ist and con­ser­va­tion in­ter­ests.

Unger said there are more than 55 en­vi­ron­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions with a wide range of projects on­go­ing across the prov­ince that the funds could help sup­port.

Right now, many of those or­ga­ni­za­tions strug­gle to get fund­ing.

“A lot of projects just don’t get re­al­ized,” she said.

“A lot of smaller en­vi­ron­men­tal groups … just kind of dis­solve be­cause there’s no sus­tained fund­ing to ap­ply to year af­ter year.

“There’s a lot of us small groups, and we have dif­fer­ent strengths, but no one group is go­ing to solve all the prob­lems. This com­mit­tee would take this al­lo­cated fund­ing from these con­ser­va­tion plates and dis­trib­ute them.”

The next step is get­ting a meet­ing with pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

“I just need that right au­di­ence to present this in­for­ma­tion to, and I think ev­ery­one that’s seen it so far has been im­pressed, so I’m hop­ing the right de­ci­sion­mak­ers will also be im­pressed,” said Unger, adding she hopes the pro­gram will get a green light “as soon as pos­si­ble.”

THE TELE­GRAM FILE PHOTO

Kathy Unger is con­ser­va­tion co-or­di­na­tor with Cana­dian Parks and Wilder­ness So­ci­ety – New­found­land and Labrador.

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