LITTLE ROCK – For the third time in 19 years of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s conservation license plate program, a white-tailed deer graces the plates of conservation-minded motorists in The Natural State.

No animal has been featured on the plate as often as deer, which is a fitting tribute to Arkansas’s outdoors, according to Matt Burns, AGFC assistant chief of education.

“More Arkansas hunters pursue deer than any other species,” Burns said. “The last deer sold out quickly.”

Several artists have worked on plate designs over the years. The two most recent versions were crafted by Greta James, AGFC illustrator and graphic artist. James’ rendition of the ideal trophy buck shows an added bit of character, a split brow tine.

Conservation license plates don’t just look good; they raise money for conservation concerns – about $1.03 million last year and more than $15 million since their inception.

Act 1566, signed April 15, 1999, by Gov. Mike Beebe, created the program. According to the act, “The design use contribution of $25 shall be deposited to the Game Protection Fund to be used by the Arkansas State Game and Fish Commission for the purpose of sponsoring college scholarships related to the field of conservation, funding land purchases for the benefit of the public, and for conservation education programs.”

Burns says the lion’s share of those conservation education dollars have gone to fund scholarships and internships for college students pursuing a field related to conservation.

“Last year we funded 125 scholarships to college students ranging from freshman- to graduate-level studies,” Burns said. “We also paid 22 interns throughout the state with conservation license plate money.”

Internships range from wildlife and fisheries management positions to education, enforcement and even support staff in geographic information systems, communications and engineering. Many internship and scholarship recipients go on to have careers with the AGFC after college

“It [Conservation License Plate Money], also provides funds for conservation education programming materials,” Burns said. “All of our nature centers, conservation education centers and regional education coordinators use it to purchase supplies that help them teach conservation and keep students interested. They may be buying arts and crafts supplies or materials to teach people how to make their own turkey call or game-carrying strap.”

One such conservation education investment created by license plate sales is the funding of schoolyard habitat projects throughout the state. Students and teachers work together to create wildlife-friendly landscapes on their school grounds, to benefit monarch butterflies, hummingbirds and other pollinator species. Giving them a chance to get out of the classroom and learn about nature beyond the books.

Conservation license plates are produced in limited runs each year, and some people are waiting in line to get the latest plate, but many find a favorite and renew that one year after year.

“I still see people driving around with the hummingbird plate on their car, and it was made in 2001,” Burns said. “They’re a great looking plate that people just don’t want to give up. The bonus is that the extra money for the plate is going to something people are passionate about.”

All 19 plates are listed on the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration website, www.dfa.arkansas.gov/motor-vehicle/specialty-plates-and-placards, although not all of them remain available.

Each plate costs $35 annually, $25 of which goes to the AGFC Conservation Scholarship Fund; $10 goes to DFA. Plates may be purchased from DFA, Office of Motor Vehicles Special License Unit, P.O. Box 1272, Little Rock, AR 72203. To purchase in person, visit Charles Ragland Taxpayer Service Center, Special License Unit at 1500 W. Seventh St. in Little Rock or any revenue office. Call 501-682-4692 for details.