LANSING--The common loon, the familiar symbol for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Nongame Fish and Wildlife Trust Fund, is on the move.
Beginning April 2, Michigan drivers will be able to show their support for Michigan's endangered, threatened and nongame wildlife by purchasing a wildlife habitat license plate for their vehicle. Michigan taxpayers, who were encouraged to "look for the loon" on the state income tax form for many years, now have a new opportunity to show their support through the wildlife plate.
Since the nongame fund was established in 1983, the program has had three main goals:
To restore populations of endangered and threatened species through management and protection.
To maintain present populations of animals and plants.
To promote appreciation and awareness of Michigan's nongame wildlife and endangered species through education and first-hand opportunities to experience wildlife.
Species management efforts are aimed at restoring endangered and threatened animals and plants and keeping common species common. Peregrine falcons, trumpeter swans, gray wolves, Kirtland's warblers, Mitchell's satyrs, lake sturgeon and common terns are just a few of the hundreds of wildlife species that have benefited from projects supported through the trust fund.
Wildlife recreation also has benefited. The fund supports a network of more than 100 watchable wildlife sites throughout Michigan. These sites provide a variety of opportunities to view some of our state's most popular wildlife species. The watchable wildlife program also promotes efforts that teach people how to responsibly photograph and view all forms of wildlife and plants.
Wildlife education is the program's third major focus. Over the years, a number of educational programs have been supported including distribution of more than three million habitat and species posters and funding for numerous interpretive trails, signs and programs. Most recently, the fund has supported over 100 small grants to schools as part of the Nature Education Sites for Tomorrow (NEST) program. This program encourages schools to develop and maintain nature education sites on school grounds using native plant species.
"We are excited about this new vehicle registration plate effort," said Raymond Rustem, Supervisor of the DNR Natural Heritage Program. "The loon is evolving from a static symbol on the tax form to a moving representation of citizen support for endangered and threatened wildlife. The plates will act as a daily reminder to citizens of Michigan's precious wildlife heritage."
Since its inception, the Nongame Fish and Wildlife Trust Fund has raised more than $9.5 million in support of critical projects for nongame species. In partnership with the Secretary of State's office, the new fund raising vehicle registration plate will provide Michigan's citizens with an opportunity to help the program continue and grow.