Thursday, April 04, 2002

Why So Few West Virginia Wildlife License Plates?

I’’ve always had an interest in license plates, so I find the current trend of many States to issue specialized plates to be quite exciting--especially the ones featuring birds. I was so thrilled at the opportunity to buy the West Virginia Wildlife license plate featuring the Rose-breasted GROSBEAK a few years ago that I showed up at the local West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles office before they even knew they had been issued! In my opinion, the West Virginia grosbeak plate is among the finest of the many State plates featuring birds. So, why do you see so few of them displayed on West Virginia cars and trucks?

Strange as it must sound, I spent parts of several days tabulating West Virginia license plates around the Eastern Panhandle. Here’’s what I found (location, date, number of plates with grosbeaks, total number of plates of all kinds excluding dealer and temporary, and grosbeak plates as a percentage of all plates; all locations except the first are in or near Martinsburg):

USFWS NCTC employee parking lot 3/28 - 5 of 54 (9.3%)
Downtown Martinsburg 3/29 - 8 of 260 (3.1%)
Martins Foods parking lot 3/30 - 2 of 86 (2.3%)
Lowe’s Home Improvement parking lot 3/30 - 1 of 143 (0.7%)
K-Mart/Food Lion parking lot 3/30 - 2 of 184 (1.1%)
Hoyts Cinema/Ruby Tuesdays parking lot 3/30 - 3 of 97 (3.1%)
All Locations Combined - 21 of 824 (2.6%)

Recent surveys show that about one-third of adults nationwide consider themselves to have at least a modest amount of interest in birds (in most cases, this translates to backyard bird feeding). Given this degree of interest in birds, why have so few West Virginians opted to display the GROSBEAK Wildlife plate on their vehicles, especially since a portion of the proceeds ($15 from each sale) helps to fund the State Nongame Program?

I attribute it, at least in part (I guess you can't rule out education and income), to a lack of marketing on the part of both the West Virginia DMV and the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources. Compare, for example, the lack of available information on the GROSBEAK plate versus the media blitz that accompanied the issuance of the NASCAR plate. Information about the NASCAR RacePlates is prominently displayed on the DMV home page, but you have to do some serious looking to find any information at all about the GROSBEAK plate. The DNR home pages doesn’t have anything at all to say about the GROSBEAK plates, even though one of its major programs stands to benefit from their sale.

The good news from my informal survey is that GROSBEAK plates outnumber NASCAR plates by 7 to 1–way to go birds!

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