Steelhead-theme license plate due soon

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Washington’s new steelhead vehicle licensed plate has been designed and will be ready for order in January or February, Department of Fish and Wildlife officials say.

The vanity plate, designed by Michigan artist and avid angler, Derek DeYoung, will raise money to boost the department’s budget for research and conservation of the sea-going rainbow trout.

Specifically the funding will focus on evaluating state steelhead populations and understanding and minimizing interactions between hatchery and wild fish.

In much of Washington, wild steelhead are listed for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Department biologists say they are trying to restore those populations to sustainable levels with changes to fisheries management options, hatchery operations and and habitat-restoration programs.

Gov. Jay Inslee signed legislation in March authorizing the program to conserve wild steelhead populations in Washington.Senate Bill 6200, requested by the Department of Fish and Wildlife, was supported by conservationists and fishing enthusiasts.

The department collected signatures from more than 4,000 people who expressed interest in buying steelhead specialty license plates when the plates are available next year, said Kelly Cunningham, deputy assistant director of WDFW’s Fish Program.

The initial cost of wildlife background license is $72.75, with a renewal fee of $30 in addition to annual tab fees, which vary by location and type of vehicle.

These plates can be purchased through the Washington Department of Licensing.

A portion of the fees collected, $28 per plate, supports specific wildlife activities depending on which background is selected.

The new steelhead plate will be the sixth Washington Fish and Wildlife license targeting specific programs.

For example, sales of the “endangered wildlife plate,” which features a killer whale, are used specifically for the recovery of Washington’s threatened and endangered species.

Sage grouse reintroductions and sea otter population surveys are among the efforts funded by plate sales.

Wildlife viewing activities, such as the development of wildlife watching trails and webcams, benefit from sales of the “wildlife watching plate,” which sports a bald eagle as the background.

WDFW uses fees collected through sales of “game management plates” — displaying a deer, elk or black bear – to manage game animals in Washington.

Management activities include improvement of public access as well as population monitoring.

Information about Fish and Wildlife specialty license plates is online at wdfw.wa.gov/license_plates.