“We hope to have them available late this year or early in 2013, and we also hope people will help us by voting for the ones they like the most,” said Mike Harris, chief of the division’s nongame and conservation section.
The department will offer two new nongame wildlife plates that will be chosen from seven candidates that include the blue bunting, Atlantic right whale, green tree frog, blue heron, hummingbird and two bald eagle designs.
Other new plates will feature bobwhite quail portraits and artwork showcasing the state’s colorful trout species.
Past designs for Georgia wildlife motor vehicle tags featured small sections of artwork, usually 4-by-4 inches, but the new designs will cover the entire plate, Harris said, adding that the online poll will be available through Sept. 15.
The special tags cost $60 and carry an annual renewal fee of $35, based on a new specialty tag fee structure adopted in 2010 by the General Assembly. Under that program, the wildlife fund the tag is benefiting will receive $10 from the initial purchase, and an additional $10 from each annual renewal fee.
The previous program required an initial purchase fee of $25, of which $22 went to the designted fund, with no annual renewal cost.
Although sales of new wildlife tags have fallen by about 80 percent since the new fee structure was adopted, part of that loss has been mitigated by the new revenue stream created by the annual renewal fees.
“Before, it was just $25 top get the plate, and now it is $60, which makes a big difference when times are tight,” Harris said. “What’s been good, though, is that part of that has been made up by people who keep their plates year after year.”
Revenue from the wildlife tag program totaled $2.8 million in fiscal 2011, but declined to $2.3 million in fiscal 2012, he said. Projections indicate the revenue will decline further — to about $1.8 million — for fiscal 2013.
Officials are hoping the new series of tags will stimulate more interest in the program — and more revenue from sales and renewals.
The money generated by the tags is used to acquire public lands and for programs to conserve and manage wildlife other than game animals, including endangered and threatened species. Georgia’s Nongame Conservation Section receives no state general funds and typically gets two-thirds of its revenue from license sales, with other income derived from grants and direct contributions.
Georgia’s Bobwhite Quail Initiative plate provides the sole funding source to support habitat restoration efforts on private lands to benefit bobwhite quail and other game and nongame wildlife species. Trout tags help support habitat and trout programs in Georgia waters.
Georgians can vote for the new wildlife tags by visiting www.georgiawildlife.com and clicking the “Make Your Vote Count” link.