The license plate with the distinct black bear image is benefiting wildlife throughout Great Smoky Mountains National Park this summer, thanks to strong plate sales and numerous projects to support black bears, trout, elk, and other wildlife.
The North Carolina “black bear” license plate, which benefits Friends of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, brought in $102,900 in the last quarter, an increase of more than seven percent over the same period in 2010.
Of the extra $30 annual fee for each specialty tag, $20 goes to Friends of the Smokies to support projects and programs on the North Carolina side of the park. Launched in 1999, the North Carolina Smokies license plate has now raised more than $2.4 million.
Some of the wildlife projects made possible by the plate revenues include several programs to study and protect the park’s 1,500 black bears, air and water quality studies that help guide efforts to protect brook trout and other aquatic species, support for the Elk Bugle Corps volunteers, who help educate park visitors about safe viewing of the park’s herd of more than 100 elk, and internships for college students considering careers in natural resource management.
“The Smokies are a true refuge for black bears, brook trout, salamanders, elk, and thousands of other species,” said Dan Matthews, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Friends of the Smokies and co-owner of The Swag Country Inn in Waynesville. “We are very glad for the opportunity to help protect these wild creatures and to have so much support from drivers all across North Carolina. They are the ones who make these important projects possible.”
Friends of the Smokies is an independent, nonprofit organization that supports conservation, education, and other priorities benefiting Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Smokies plate is available from any local North Carolina license plate agency office or from the NC DOT web site. To learn more, go online to www.friendsofthesmokies.org or call (828) 452-0720.