Case Study: Indian River Lagoon
License Plate Revenue Supports Environmental Education and Habitat Restoration in Indian River Lagoon (Florida)
The Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program, sponsored in Florida by the St. Johns River Water Management District, led the development and management of the Indian River Lagoon specialty license plate revenue program. 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 in both the House and Senate in the next legislative session. 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 National Estuary Program 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, and 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 National Estuary Program receives fifteen dollars. 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 eighty percent of the Indian River Lagoon's specialty license plate proceeds support stormwater retrofit and/or habitat restoration projects and up to twenty 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, and 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 the revenue derived from the sales of lagoon license plates, and these funds have leveraged more than the total revenue raised in matching funds.
The largest obstacle for the Indian River Lagoon's specialty license plate program has been the competition from more than 100 other specialty license plate designs offered for sale in the state of Florida. In response, the program needed to initiate an extensive marketing campaign and offer a design that was unique. The Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program 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 from throughout the state. Currently, the lagoon license plate ranks 17 out of 103 specialty plates available for drivers to choose from in Florida.
For more information on this unique funding opportunity, please visit irl.sjrwmd.com.