For the week of March 24, 1999  thru March 30, 1999  

Idaho House passes new SNRA license plates

Express Staff Writer

Increased on-the-ground projects in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area are the target of new special license-plate sales if legislation passed by the Idaho House of Representatives on Friday is signed by Gov. Dirk Kempthorne.

Kempthorne has 10 days to give the bill his approval. If approved, the new SNRA plates will be available to Idaho vehicle owners on Jan. 1.

A percentage of the proceeds collected from the new plates will fund projects within the SNRA, said Bob Hayes, executive director of the Sawtooth Society, the organization that gave birth to the bill.

"The idea is to support and enhance the SNRA’s recreation," Hayes said. "Also, it is a boon to central Idaho business."

The advertising the plates will provide for the local area and its bountiful natural blessings will help draw people to central Idaho, Hayes added.

Anyone who chooses to buy one of the new license plates, will pay $35 for the first year and $25 in subsequent years on top of regular car registration costs. Each year, $10 of the annual fee will go to an outdoor recreation account where the accumulated funds will be earmarked specifically for recreation improvements within the SNRA, Hayes said.

The Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation, along with Sawtooth National Forest officials, will work with the Sawtooth Society to identify projects that need the funds’ support.

Hayes hopes that 4,000 plates are sold in the first year, a "reasonable and realistic projection" that would raise $40,000 for SNRA-based projects. He added that the number of plates sold will probably increase in subsequent years.

If final approval is given, the Sawtooth Society will come up with a design for the plates by June. Prototype designs have already been drawn up. One features a stylized rendition of the Sawtooth Mountains, and another pictures a mountain goat in front of a more traditional portrayal of the Sawtooths. Hayes stressed that those are only proposals and the Idaho Transportation Department will sign off on the final design.

Sawtooth National Forest spokesman Ed Waldapfel said the plates will be excellent tools for the SNRA and forest projects for several reasons.

"It draws attention to a special area here in Idaho," he said. "It also provides an opportunity for people in Idaho to contribute to the maintenance, construction and upkeep of areas in the SNRA. The fact that it’s going to draw attention to the national recreation areas and get people involved in their national forests is good, too."

Along with the User Fee Demonstration Program and private partnerships, the funding from the new license plates is another arrow in the Sawtooth National Forest’s funding quiver.

"It’s the way its going to be in the future," Waldapfel said. "We’re continually looking for partnerships with organizations like the Sawtooth Society."

In fact, the Sawtooth National Forest received $650,000 through donations and partnerships in 1998. This year, it has already received $621,000.

In the future, Waldapfel said, Forest Service officials are looking for grants, partnerships and other funding measures to supplant dwindling federal appropriations.


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