ST. PAUL (AP) -- Department of Natural Resources officials are delighted with the success of Minnesota's new loon license plates.
In just one year, the colorful plates have added $2 million to the state's effort to save wildlife habitat.
"When I first saw it, I thought, 'Wow, I've got to have that,"' said Judy Kurdziel, 48, of Eagan. "I think it brings my car up a notch. It's a great plate."
Kurdziel said the plates depicting the state bird capture the spirit of Minnesota's great outdoors, and she's proud to show it off as she travels to other states.
"It's been tremendously successful," said Kim Hennings, DNR wildlife land acquisition coordinator. "The new loon plate has really taken off."
A motorist pays a $10 one-time fee and then $30 a year extra for the special plates that fund the Reinvest in Minnesota Critical Habitat Matching Account.
The loon plates came out in May 2002. The state's original critical habitat licenses were first sold in 1996 and featured two green deer silhouettes on a tan background. After seven years, about 35,400 deer plates are on the road. It took just over a year for loon plates to top that, with sales now reaching about 38,400.
There are even more loon plates than there are loons in Minnesota. Wildlife experts estimate the state's loon population at about 12,000.
A year ago, the critical habitat licenses were bringing in about $1 million a year. Given that they raised $2 million last year and the money can't be spent until there are private donations to match it, the impact will be about $4 million.
The DNR has no trouble finding the matching donations and has a long list of critical habitat projects completed or in the works. Since 1996, the license plate program has enabled the DNR to buy 2,000 acres for habitat -- land classified as wildlife management or scientific and natural areas.
On the Net:
For more information about critical habitat license plates or to order them online, go to http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/features/plates/index.html
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