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A portion of the sales from specialty license plates goes to fund wildlife projects KARL MOFFATT/FOR THE JOURNAL

New Mexico’s wild critters and natural environment benefit greatly from those who give generously to the state’s Share with Wildlife Program, says Ginny Seamster, program manager for the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. “Without them, it wouldn’t exist.”

The public contributed more than $90,000 to the program last year through tax refund contributions, specialty license plate purchases and donations hat qualify the department to receive matching funds from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which raised an additional $82,000.

The program funded projects worth $165,000 this year, including much-needed financial support for wildlife rehabilitation centers, where sick and injured animals receive veterinary treatment and rehabilitation before being released back into the wild,

The program also funds research, including a study of the North American river otter reintroduction effort of 2008-10, and evaluation of the current size and health of the otter population in New Mexico.

Another 2018 project involves assessing the reproductive success and survival rates of a turtle species under review for potential listing as a threatened or endangered species. Also funded is a project to study a species of chipmunk found only in mountain ranges in southeastern New Mexico.

Yet another project involves the study of white-nose syndrome, a devastating fungal disease wiping out many bat colonies in the eastern United States. This will help determine whether the fungus is present in some of the most heavily visited caves and mines in New Mexico that also are roost and/or hibernation sites for bats. This is an important precursor to being able to take more steps to protect bat populations, Seamster says.

Biologists volunteer to review and select applications for each year’s projects, and all donations are earmarked for projects, not administrative costs, she says.

The program received the majority of donations last year from its share from the sales of popular wildlife license plates by the state Motor Vehicle Division. The plates feature either a Gambel’s quail, a buck mule deer or a Rio Grande cutthroat trout. They can be ordered by mail or purchased at an MVD office.

The Share with Wildlife program was started in 1981 to help wildlife species that do not receive other funding.

In the past decade, more than $1.5 million has gone to research, habitat enhancement, education and rehabilitation projects that benefit non-game species in need of conservation.

To see a complete list of funded projects, updates and program highlights, visit the department’s website at wildlife.state.nm.us. For additional information, contact Seamster at (505) 476-8111 or virginia.seamster@state.nm.us.

Karl Moffatt is a longtime New Mexico journalist and avid outdoorsman who posts regularly on his blog at www.outdoorsnm.com.

 

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