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E-M:/ RE: loon license plate supports the non-game wildlife fund

Enviro-Mich message from Christopher Graham <grahamz@umich.edu>

Hi, Birders and Enviro - Mich folks

I am sorry if this note is a bit long.  Many of you will find it useful.

These comments respond to several of you who talked about the new license
plates and the Nongame Fund, earlier this week.

The Governor decided about a year ago he wanted neither the Nongame nor
Children's Trust fund checkoffs on the tax return any more -- and asked the
Legislature to pay off the remaining balances due to cap each Fund.

These payments were approved by the Legislature, and many of you have
probably already noticed there is no loon on the State tax returns you are
currently completing.

Now interest earned from the completed Trust Fund, and income from the new
license plates are to cover the expenses of the Heritage Programs -- which
were previously covered by a portion of the donations received collected
via the checkoff.

The checkoff earned about $600K each year, over the last decade.  (Michigan
is one of the few state's where donations held steady for many years --
most state's income steadily declined).

Of that income, about $200K was placed in the permanent Trust Fund -- the
balance of $400K was used for current operations (with a one year lag).

There has always been some interest income -- lately about $150K.  General
fund monies ($350K) have come to the Heritage Program, too -- though that
number has not changed with inflation in more than five years.  There are
other minor sources of income that generally have not been budgeted, but
have greatly helped.

Now the Trust Fund stands at $6M, and should produce about $400K in
interest, each year.  The general fund monies are likely to remain stable
at $350K.  So that means income from "Conserve Wildlife Habitat" plates
will need to make up the difference.  That means we will need 30,000 -
40,000 of the new plates in persistent circulation, at a minimum, for
things to come out OK after these changes.  (The "Worlds Motor Capital"
plate sold more than one million copies!)

The Heritage Program in the Wildlife Division encompasses the Endangered
Species Program, Watchable Wildlife Program, Natural Areas Program, Nongame
Wildlife Program, Living Resources Program, and the Michigan Natural
Features Inventory.  The General Fund monies support MNFI, and parts of the
Endangered Species and Natural Areas Program.

There is no part of our State government that operates any more efficiently
nor more joyfully in support of things most of you care about -- support
for and restoration of native species such as the Trumpeter swan, the
Peregrine falcon, the osprey, the Kirtland's warbler, the Pine Marten and
MANY other animals and projects.  It has carried a significant Small Grant
Program each year.  It's educational support activities across the state
are outstanding.

There has always been a Citizen's Committee that has worked directly with
staff, (on which I have served since the early 1980's, representing the
Michigan Environmental Council) advising and helping with policy.  We began
asking for a license plate in the mid-1980's -- soon after some of us first
saw the "Save the Chesapeake" plate, in Maryland, that supported the
Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

When you change your plate (which you can do at any time), you will pay a
one time fee of $35, $25 of which goes to the operational side of the Trust
Fund.  Then, each time you renew your plates (on your birthday each year),
you will pay an extra $10 over the normal fees for your vehicle -- all of
that will go to the Trust Fund.

We truly do hope many of you will purchase a plate, and keep it for many
years.  They go on sale at the Secretary of State branch offices on Monday.

For the moment none of the new plates (supporting the Future Farmers, the
Children's Trust Fund, Veterans, Lighthouses, and a new fund in the MDEQ
concerned with surface water quality) are available in commercial versions
-- we have started to work to change that.  The loon design is OK.  The
plate says "Conserve Wildlife Habitat."

Feel free to write me back, off list, if you want more info.  I am sorry to
take up so much space in your email.


Christopher L. Graham, ASLA 
(734) 975-7800 (O)
email   grahamz@umich.edu
sms email   7342609890@page.nextel.com

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