Sierra Nevada Conservancy License Plate update (FAQ's)

For nearly three years now The Sierra Fund has led the effort to get a specialty license plate for the new Sierra Nevada Conservancy in order to ensure ongoing, sustainable funding for this crucial new state agency. Over the last couple of months people have asked a number of questions about the status of this campaign. This Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) memo answers these questions.

What is the Sierra Nevada Conservancy Specialty License Plate program?

A new specialty license plate program, which permits the Sierra Nevada Conservancy and other state agencies to have a license plate that provides revenue, was created by legislation (AB 84) sponsored by The Sierra Fund and carried by Assembly members Tim Leslie and John Laird. This bill was signed by the Governor last fall. This legislation has several key points, including: * license plates must above all be easy to read. Full-plate graphics like the “whale tail” and the “Yosemite valley” will no longer be allowed. Designs must fit into the corner of the plate. * 7,500 registrations for the license plate have to be collected in one year before the license plate will be issued. This time limit can be extended by one year. * the Sierra Nevada Conservancy is not permitted to spend any state funds in collecting the first 7,500 registrations. After that, they can spend a small percentage of the income on “selling” the plates to more Californians.

What will the Plate look like?

The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is the lead agency for this license plate program. They have not yet issued final rules or an application, but they have made some points clear regarding the design and a few other issues. They will allow some alternative materials or treatments that could make the plate eye-catching and attractive. The Sierra Nevada Conservancy Board subcommittee has been looking at designs and will make a recommendation on a design at their July Board meeting.

When can I apply for my official Sierra Nevada Conservancy license plate?

After the DMV finalizes the program and design guidelines, and the Sierra Nevada Conservancy board approves a design (hopefully in July), the campaign will begin. We expect the campaign to launch in fall 2007.

How much will a Sierra Nevada Conservancy License Plate cost?

For regular, non-personalized plates the first year registration fee will be $50 (the extra $10 goes to DMV to set up the program). Every year after that will cost $40, payable when your regular car registration comes due. Any personalization of the plate (with a name, for example) will cost extra. These extra funds for personalizing the Sierra Nevada Conservancy plate will NOT go to the Conservancy, but instead will be deposited in the Environmental License Plate Fund (which is currently providing all funding for general operating support to the Conservancy)

How long after I fill out and mail my official registration form to The Sierra Fund will it be until I get my new plate?

The biggest challenge we face is logistical: from the time we begin selling the plates until people receive a plate is going to be a very long time. DMV has indicated it may take 9 months after receiving the 7,500 completed registrations with fees before plates will be put in the mail. Even if we sell all the plates in six months, the first people to sign up might have to wait more than a year to get their plates in the mail.

How will I know when the campaign has registered 7,500 people?

We have developed a multi-part campaign that will target these first 7,500 registrants with information and support to get through the long wait. We are still developing our ideas for gifts (such as a license plate frame or window sticker) to early registrants, and anticipate developing an electronic and print outreach program. We will keep an accurate count of the number of plates sold on our website. We will stay in touch with you until you receive a plate in the mail.

Are 7,500 license plates all we need to register?

Once the plate is ACTUALLY available we will kick in the second phase of the campaign, with the goal of enrolling 20,000 more license plate registrations. This will be a much more visible campaign, as we will be able to deliver the plates within a more normal timeframe.

How much money will the license plate generate?

This depends upon how many people enroll. The plate kicks $40 per year per plate to the Conservancy (minus some modest state overhead), so the more we sell the better. The Tahoe Conservancy gets nearly about half a million a year from their plate, and the Coastal Whale Tail plates raises twice that or more.

How will the money generated through the plates be used?

The plate will provide sustainable funding for the Sierra Nevada Conservancy programs to protect water quality, avoid or minimize natural disasters such as fire, preserve cultural and historic sites, improve public access to public lands for recreation, protect ranch and forest lands, and promote economic development that enhances environmental values.

In addition, this program builds greater public support for protection of the special places of the Sierra Nevada that we all love. And, it creates new partnerships with a common mission to protect the Sierra Nevada “range of light.”

How many people have “pre-registered?”

The Sierra Fund began collecting names of people who want to order a license plate when they become available. To date we have nearly 3,000 plates informally spoken for.

You can pre-register for a plate right now by clicking on the license plate icon on our website. Pre-registrants will be the first people contacted when the campaign is launched.

If the Conservancy can't run the campaign, who will?

At their December 2007 meeting the Sierra Nevada Conservancy Board formally approved working with The Sierra Fund as their non-profit partner in selling the first 7,500 plates. The Sierra Fund will work closely with our long-time partners in this effort at the Sierra Nevada Alliance, the Sierra Cascade Land Trust Council, and the Sierra Club to reach out to potential registrants.

Where will the money come from to run this campaign?

The campaign must have the financial resources to develop and distribute outreach materials, launch a state of the art website, and keep track of 7,500 registration forms. The Sierra Fund is approaching potential partners for funding this campaign, focusing on businesses which are important to the present and future of the Sierra Nevada “range of light.”

We have already received some modest contributions from Sierra businesses and are in conversation with a couple of larger corporations, foundations and major donors as well.

How can I help?

There are three things you can do RIGHT NOW to help this campaign:

1. If you haven't already, pre-register for a license plate on our website — Click on the license plate icon. Pre-registration costs nothing and helps us identify the people most ready to help with this campaign.

2. Make a contribution to our campaign. Your contribution toward this campaign now will help us get ready to launch in the fall. Click on the “donate now” link at the bottom of our homepage at

3. Tell your friends to pre-register. Send this page by email to everyone you know that loves the Sierra Nevada! Copy & email this link: