Georgia dropping price, increasing benefits of wildlife tags

lfabian@macon.comJune 30, 2014 

Those opting out of a specialty license plate due to increased cost will be getting a break on wildlife tags beginning Tuesday.

That’s when a new law rolls back the cost of buying and renewing the state’s five designs that benefit wildlife conservation and management.

What cost $60 plus a $20 registration fee Monday will cost $25 plus the $20 registration fee Tuesday.

Renewal costs drop from $35 to $25.

The state used to contribute $10 from each purchase and renewal to benefit wildlife programs, but it’s now upping the contribution to $19 from every purchase and $20 from each renewal.

“We don’t get any state funds,” said Jim Ozier, a wildlife biologist for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources who has worked on preserving Georgia’s eagle population since the late 1980s.

DNR’s aerial surveys earlier this year found 188 occupied nesting territories, 148 successful nests and 235 young eagles -- the most recorded in decades and a giant leap from when Ozier could count on his hands all the eagle nests in Georgia.

The state credits Georgians who bought wildlife license plates with the rebound of birds, which are no longer listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act but are still protected by federal and state law.

Dollars contributed to the fund through vehicle licensing can be doubled or tripled by federal grants, Ozier said.

Upping the percentage contributed from the lower-cost tags could increase the number of donors, Ozier said.

“Some people want to buy a tag because it looks good, and others want to make a statement and donate to a cause,” he said. “They want to know most of their money is going to the program.”

The Wildlife Conservation Fund benefits endangered and non-game wildlife and plants.

“A lot of species are at risk, and we’re busy trying to identify those,” Ozier said.

The license plate featuring Georgia’s bobwhite quail, white-tailed deer and wild turkey funnels money directly to the Bobwhite Quail Initiative to maintain critical habitat for quail and songbirds.

Georgia’s trout conservation and management programs are funded with the Trout Unlimited license plate.

In addition, taxpayers can contribute to the Give Wildlife a Chance campaign when they file state income taxes.

Ozier has his sights set on saving the gopher tortoise population.

“We would love to gather enough information to say this is a species we can conserve by doing it proactively,” he said.

To contact Liz Fabian, call 744-4303.

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