Date: October 2, 2001
Contact: Gary Appelson
Phone: (325) 373-6441
GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA — Florida’s sea turtle specialty license plate is making good on its promise to “Help Sea Turtles Survive.” And thanks to the new Marine Turtle Grants Program, which is funded entirely by proceeds from the turtle plate, Floridians can see just how revenue from the plate is being spent to protect sea turtles in the state.
Last week the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), which administers the turtle grants Program, awarded contracts for grants totaling $156,000 to 14 environmental organizations, local governments, and educational institutions around Florida. The grant Program was set up in order to return a major portion of the money generated through the sale of the license plate back to local communities, educational institutions and Florida-based conservation organizations that are involved in research, education and conservation efforts to protect Florida’s endangered sea turtles.
Fiscal year 2000-2001 was the first year in which revenue from the plate was high enough to trigger the grant Program. The first $500,000 generated each year from sales of the plate goes directly to the FWC’s Marine Turtle Protection Program. Once annual revenues exceed $500,000, those funds are distributed through the turtle grants Program.
The grants Program is administered by the FWC; however, decisions about which grants should be funded are made by an independent Marine Turtle Grants Committee consisting of seven rotating members with knowledge and expertise in the research and management of marine turtles. Members of the committee are appointed Dr. Allan Egbert, FWC Executive Director.
David Godfrey is Chairman of the Sea Turtle Grants Committee. His organization, the Caribbean Conservation Corporation, designed the sea turtle plate and led the statewide campaign to convince the Florida Legislature to establish the turtle tag and the grants Program.
“People often ask me whether money from the turtle plate actually goes toward sea turtle conservation,” said David Godfrey, Executive Director of CCC. “This suggests there is some skepticism about how funds from specialty plates are used. At least in the case of the sea turtle plate, every dime supports sea turtle conservation in Florida. And through the grants Program, funding is distributed to support many worthy sea turtle research and education projects.”
In just a few short years, the sea turtle plate has become one of the top sellers in Florida, having generated over $2 million in voluntary contributions toward sea turtle protection.
“It’s rewarding to know that so many people share our concern for Florida’s sea turtles,” said Godfrey. “Few people realize that Florida beaches host over 90% of all the sea turtle nesting in the United States. What we do here in Florida has a dramatic impact on sea turtle populations around the world. By purchasing the turtle tag, Floridians are voluntarily funding important Programs to save these amazing creatures.”
The next sea turtle grants cycle began on October 1, 2001. Applications will be accepted from qualified applicants until November 15, 2001. Based on sales of the plate last year, Godfrey anticipates that his Committee will be able to award nearly $250,000 in grant funding this year.
Some of projects already funded through the grants Program include $32,500 to the University of Florida Vet School for research into treating a disease that killed hundreds of loggerhead turtles last spring; $25,000 to Palm Beach County to conduct sea turtle monitoring and education; $15,000 to Apalachicola Bay River Keeper to install turtle friendly lighting and nearly $15,000 to the Volusia/Flagler County Turtle Patrol to install sea turtle awareness signs.
The Sea Turtle License Plate authorization legislation (FS 320.08058 (19)) was passed by the Florida legislature in 1997. The plates were first offered for sale in February, 1998. The turtle tags cost $17.50 above the normal Florida license plate fee. All proceeds, less an administrative fee deducted by the Department of Motor Vehicles, are transferred to the Marine Resources Conservation Trust Fund, which is administered by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). The first $500,000 in annual revenue is used by the FWC to fund its Marine Turtle Protection Program. Annual revenue generated in excess of $500,000 is distributed each year through the Marine Turtle Grant Program.
The Sea Turtle Conservancy, formerly known as the Caribbean Conservation Corporation, is a not-for-profit, 501(c)3 organization based in Florida with offices and projects in several other locations. The Sea Turtle Conservancy is the oldest and most accomplished sea turtle organization in the world. Since its founding in 1959, the Sea Turtle Conservancy’s work has greatly improved the survival outlook for several species of sea turtles. The Sea Turtle Conservancy has as its mission the protection of sea turtles and the habitats upon which they depend. To achieve its mission, the Sea Turtle Conservancy uses research, habitat protection, public education, community outreach, networking and advocacy as its basic tools. These tools are applied in both international and domestic programs focusing on geographic areas that are globally important to sea turtle survival. For more information, visit the STC website atwww.conserveturtles.org or call (800) 678-7853.