Image courtesy of Keep Oregon Green

OREGON - Smokey Bear’s 75th birthday is this year and Keep Oregon Green, a Salem-based nonprofit whose focus is the prevention of wildfires, and the Oregon DMV are celebrating the landmark with the introduction of a license plate adorned with the federal mascot. 

Beginning August 1, Oregon drivers, whose cars are titled and registered with the DMV, will be able to purchase, for passenger vehicles only, special Smokey Bear-themed license plates.

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In addition to incurring the“regular” fees -- the DMV’s own vernacular -- for a vehicle’s title, registration and the cost of manufacturing a license plate, which all combined run $100 or more depending on the requirements for an individual vehicle, et al, Smokey Bear license plates have an additional $40 surcharge tacked on each time the vehicle’s registration is renewed -- in Oregon that’s once every two to four years. 

Kristin Babbs, president of Keep Oregon Green (KOG), said the impetus for the license plate comes from the fact that KOG already uses Smokey Bear’s image in its education and outreach materials, because it will do a good job of making the connection between kids’ parents remembering Smokey and the parents wanting to pass their memories of him on to their kids, and "just the fact that the license plates are going to be everywhere in Oregon,” Babbs said. “They will serve as a continual reminder that we all need to be careful with wildfire. We all need to do everything we can to prevent fires from starting in the first place. That’s what’s really in it for me; it’s that constant reminder to stay vigilant.”

David House, a spokesman for the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), which oversees the DMV, said state law allows nonprofits that have been vetted to create a new license plate for sale if it can sell 3,000 vouchers to people willing to pay $40 for the specialty plate in advance. 

“Oregon has several specialty license plates,” House said. “For example, the Trail Blazers, Crater Lake, the Oregon Ducks is one, gray whales comes to mind,” House said. “The money goes to the sponsor, which in this case is Keep Oregon Green. They are the ones that made this possible.”

Babbs said Keep Oregon Green keeps from each Smokey Bear license plate the DMV sells $35 of the $40 surcharge, with the additional $5 kept by the DMV.

“We use that revenue for wildfire prevention awareness through television ads, radio ads, billboards, and other types of programming and education,” Babbs said. “It’s Smokey’s 75th year, so I think the timing is right in so many ways. The great thing about (Smokey Bear’s recognition across generations) is his popularity helped us sell all 3,000 vouchers in 15 days.”

Babbs said that set a DMV license plate sales record in the voucher program, and ODOT’s House backed up her claim.

Before heading to any DMV office, the department suggests all drivers first check OregonDMV.com to make sure they have everything required for their DMV visit. The website also allows web users in real time to check on the DMV’s waiting times, although those times may change once someone arrives at a particular local office. 

To view the ODOT press release that spurred this story please go online to ODOT’s website here