Vote on custom license plate for San Juan County

Washington residents could soon have the option of buying a custom San Juan Islands license plate that supports local conservation efforts.

“It creates an opportunity for all Washington residents to demonstrate their appreciation and ownership for these beautiful islands, the culture and the aesthetics they represent,” said San Juan Islands National Monument Manager Marcia deChadenèdes. “It is a way of giving back with a funding source for the many nonprofits dedicated to protecting wildlife and landscapes, ecological and agricultural values and youth stewardship.”

Nearly 50 artists and photographers have submitted designs, one of which will be chosen by the end of September. A total of 3,500 signatures in support of the initiative must be gathered before Senator Kevin Ranker introduces the bill to the legislature in 2018. So far, 1,600 have been collected.

The winning plate will be offered by the Washington Department of Licensing as an alternative to the state’s regular vehicle plate. The fee for a new plate is $28, which is tax-deductible as a charitable contribution on both the first purchase and subsequent renewals. The total amount due is $30 with a DOL administration fee.

The San Juan Islands plate is among many that Washington residents have the opportunity to purchase; fish and wildlife currently has six available.

“If the San Juan plates prove to be popular, who can say how many will evolve?” said deChadenèdes.

The project is expected to raise at least $100,000 per year for conservation and stewardship of natural, agricultural, historic, and cultural resources in the county. It will support organizations like the land bank, preservation trust and youth conservation corps. A grants program will be managed by the Madrona Institute, a stewardship nonprofit, to award monies to nonprofit and tribal applicants.

The Madrona Institute and the Terrestrial Managers Group, an organization that represents all land management organizations in the county, are overseeing the campaign, which will conclude once all signatures are gathered. Of the 47 license plate submissions, all but one was created by a county resident. To see the designs and vote online, visit www.madrona.org.

At the Orcas Food Co-Op, the petition sign-up is located at the checkout counters and on Saturday, Sept. 2, voting will be held from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. You can also sign up or vote for designs at the Lopez and San Juan Island farmers markets, San Juan Islands Conservation District Office in Friday Harbor, Bureau of Land Management on Lopez and the chambers of commerce on Lopez and San Juan.

Willie Clancy, coordinator for the Orcas Youth Conservation Corps, tasked his team members, who range in age from 12 to 15, with signing people up over the summer.

“Most have been really receptive and think it’s a very cool idea to support conservation right here in the San Juans,” he said.