Time is running out for new California redwoods license plate

A proposed new license plate to raise money for California’s state parks system needs 7,500 pre-paid orders by May 18, 2017, to become a reality.
A proposed new license plate to raise money for California’s state parks system needs 7,500 pre-paid orders by May 18, 2017, to become a reality. California State Parks Department

Redwood trees can live for 1,000 years or longer. But a proposed new California license plate featuring redwoods may only have a little more than a week.

For the past four years, parks lovers have been trying to boost funding for California’s state parks system with a new commemorative license plate similar to other plates that raise money for such causes as the arts, military veterans programs, and environmental restoration at Lake Tahoe and Yosemite National Park.

But under state law, new plates need 7,500 pre-purchased orders before the Department of Motor Vehicles will produce them, and with a May 18 deadline looming, the parks plate, which features an old-growth redwood forest, so far has only 2,251.

“Unfortunately, it’s looking like the parks plate sale is going to fall short of the goal unless there’s a massive effort to generate support for them in the next 10 days,” said Sam Hodder, president of the Save the Redwoods League.

The league, a nonprofit based in San Francisco, has preserved 200,000 acres of redwood forests since 1918, many of which were ancient trees more than 1,000 years old that would have been cut down. The group has added them to state parks such as Big Basin, Butano, Portola Redwoods, Humboldt Redwoods, Jedediah Smith and Prairie Creek.

The state parks plates cost $50 for first issue and $40 each year after, and for personalized plates, $98 for first issue and $78 each year after. To order, go to

State parks officials say money from the plates will fund new trails, boost ranger programs and restore beaches, forests and other significant parts of the 280 parks in California’s parks system.

If 7,500 orders are not received by May 18, the money will be refunded to anyone who has purchased a plate, and the plates will not be printed.

The plate was authorized under a law that passed in 2012, and pushed by former Assemblyman Jared Huffman of Marin County, who now is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

The redwoods plate was designed by Wyn Ericson, an artist and middle school teacher in Napa County. Ericson’s work won first prize in a contest in November 2015 to select the best plate, chosen by a panel that featured representatives from state parks, Save the Redwoods League, Sempervirens Fund and the California Natural Resources Agency.

California has 12 specialty license plates, ranging from a Yosemite plate that has raised $19.6 million for projects in Yosemite National Park to a recently approved Snoopy plate that raises money for California museums, to a whale-tail plate that has generated $26.5 million for coastal programs and a veterans plate that has raised $12.7 million for military veterans programs.

Together, they have raised a combined $217 million over the years. The KIDS plate, featuring a small hand, has raised the most, $61.9 million for child abuse prevention and children’s health issues.

Donors, non-profits or foundations can buy dozens, hundreds or even thousands of license plates. One donation of $262,450 would save the redwoods license plate. But according to Artemio Armenta, a DMV spokesman, the department requires that each of the 5,249 plates that need to be sold have a form filled out and be connected to a motorist and a vehicle.

Parks officials said Monday they are planning a final push on social media and doing everything they can to get the word out to the 25 million licensed drivers in California that the redwoods plate is facing crunch time.

“California’s state parks are loved by many,” said parks spokeswoman Gloria Sandoval. “We are hopeful that Californians will help us achieve this important goal.”