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November 03. 2012 11:34PM

Moose plates raise $13m for conservation


Plaistow artist Jim Collins designed the state's moose plate. 

When he thinks about the millions raised by the state's Conservation License Plate program - the one that features his depiction of a moose - Plaistow artist Jim Collins can't help but laugh.

"It wasn't my favorite design," said Collins. "When they were choosing which of my designs to use, I was hoping for the purple finch."

But Collins admits its hard to argue with the final decision, given that the sale and renewal of moose plates has raised just shy of $13 million - $12,973,295 as of August, to be exact - since the plates first went on sale in July 2000.

"To hear that my art helped to raise all that money is unbelievable to me," said Collins. "I am honored to have played a part in this."

The New Hampshire Conservation License Plate program raises funds to be used for the protection of critical resources in New Hampshire, including scenic lands, historic sites and artifacts, and plants and wildlife. Proceeds of the "moose plates" sales are distributed to five state agencies - Fish and Game's Non-game and Endangered Wildlife Program, the Department of Resources and Economic Development's Division of Parks and Recreation and National Heritage Inventory, the Department of Cultural Affairs and the Conservation Committee. The Department of Transportation also receives up to $50,000 a year.

The state Conservation Number Plate Advisory Committee, made up of legislators and staff from state agencies, oversees the distribution of the plate's revenues. On a yearly basis, the committee reports to the General Court and summarizes the number of plates issued, revenues collected and the accomplishments of the program.

The guidelines of the program clearly spell out what the funds can be used for, including:

-- Reserving and/or purchasing significant, publicly owned historic properties, works of art, artifacts and archaeological sites.

-- Researching and managing non-game wildlife species, their habitat, native plant species and educating the public about them.

-- Providing grants to counties, communities and non-profit groups for conservation projects.

-- Expanding plantings of roadside wildflowers and lilacs.

-- Administering the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP).

Projects funded in fiscal year 2011 included surveys of World War II bunkers that resulted in relocating more than 225 bats, including one species endangered in the state, none showing signs of white nose syndrome; eight applicants from throughout the state received grants to perform wildlife habitat projects on their school grounds or in their community; volunteers in the state's dragonfly survey spent in excess of 1,800 hours and found 150 different species of dragonflies.

"I'm thrilled that the program has raised so much money, and when you look at the projects receiving grants year after year, I think it's been money well spent," said former state senator and representative Martha Fuller Clark, the prime sponsor of the state law that created the Conservation License Plate program in 1998.

"It was not an easy process. We were one of the last states to approve a conservation plate. It was tough, but when you look back at what the program has done since, I think it was a worthy effort."

The conservation plate program had its origins in a conversation among students in teacher Jane Kellogg's fourth- grade class at the Holderness School. The students never gave up, lobbying members of the Legislature for seven years before the idea became a reality.

The cost for a moose plate is $30 per year, in addition to a plate fee and regular town and state registration fees.

Moose plates and gift certificates for them can be purchased in person at any state Division of Motor Vehicles Registration office, as well as at some municipal offices.

Residents can also download a Moose Conservation License Plate gift certificate form from the website mooseplate.com. Just fill it out and send a payment to: New Hampshire Division of Motor Vehicles, Bureau of Registration, 23 Hazen Drive, Concord 03305.


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