Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program (NEP) (FL) Uses License Plate Revenue Supports Environmental Education and Habitat Restoration
The Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program (NEP) led the development and management of the Indian River Lagoon specialty license plate revenue program. To establish the program, the Indian River Lagoon NEP took the following steps:
- First, the Program collected petitions containing the signatures of 12,000 registered Florida vehicle owners who agreed they would purchase the specialty plate when available.
- Second, the Program obtained the support of a Florida state representative and a state senator who agreed to sponsor the Bill to create the specialty plate.
- Third, the Program paid a $15,000 one-time administration fee to the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles. Short- and long-term marketing strategies were also developed as required by the Department of Motor Vehicles.
The Indian River Lagoon NEP is responsible for the promotion of the Indian River Lagoon license plate and management of the grant program supported by its revenues. Several corporate partners have supported the Indian River Lagoon's promotional campaign for the license plate. Many McDonald's franchises throughout the lagoon's watershed helped gather signatures at the start of the campaign.
The Anheuser Busch Corporation donated $15,000 to help pay for the production and labor costs of more than 70 billboard advertisements. The Florida Outdoor Advertising Association donated $60,000 worth of billboard advertising space. For three months, a local car dealership provided all new car buyers with Indian River Lagoon license plates.
For each lagoon license plate sold or renewed, the Indian River Lagoon NEP receives $15. During the first seven years, the license plate raised more than $4 million. The Program continues to receive about $400,000 annually. Because the vehicle owners pay the fee annually, this program provides a relatively stable source of continuing funding.
At least 80 percent of the Indian River Lagoon's specialty license plate proceeds support habitat restoration projects. Up to 20 percent support environmental education projects focusing on the lagoon. License plate revenues do not support salaries, studies or other administrative costs. Habitat restoration projects have included:
- the reconnection of impounded salt marshes
- shoreline stabilization
- spoil island and mangrove restoration
- stormwater treatment retrofits
Environmental education projects have included exhibits, videos and support for lagoon learning centers. Many diverse lagoon projects have been accelerated or made possible as a result of revenue derived from sales of lagoon license plates. These funds have leveraged more than the total revenue raised in matching funds.
The largest obstacle for this program has been competition from more than 100 other specialty license plate designs for sale in Florida. In response, the program needed to initiate an extensive marketing campaign and offer a design that was unique. The Indian River Lagoon NEP was successful in both of those areas. The initial marketing campaign was a success as a result of strong corporate partners.
Current marketing strategies include direct mail promotions to plate owners and targeted advertising in regional and statewide angler magazines. The Indian River Lagoon license plate was the first in Florida to feature a fish, the snook, which has appealed to anglers throughout the state. Currently, the lagoon license plate ranks 16 out of 103 specialty plates available for drivers to choose from in Florida.