An example of the new design, courtesy Oregon Parks and Recreation Department

A new design for Oregon salmon license plates will be available to vehicle owners September 1, 2021, and the money from plate sales will go toward salmon habitat and restoration.

The salmon plate VIP list auction opens for bids Tuesday, July 20. All bids must be received by 5:00 p.m. on Friday, July 30. The Oregon Conservation Partnership is working with habitat-related nonprofit organizations to auction off spots for low-numbered plates, i.e. SM00001 through SM00020, using eBay. The eBay auction can be joined by clicking here

Salmon lovers who can’t wait until Sept. 1 for a new license plate still can opt for the classic existing salmon license plate until August 31, and holders of the original salmon plate can keep theirs as long as the registration remains up-to-date. 

Vehicle owners who really want one of the new salmon license plates can claim one with a low number via a special auction. More information about obtaining a low-numbered plate, and about both the classic and new salmon plates, is available on this website. If, for some reason, that link doesn’t work, the joint press release from OWEB and OPRD says to go to eBay and search for “Coalition of Oregon Land Trusts Salmon License Plate.”

The Oregon Coast Coho Salmon are a threatened species. Additionally, lower Columbia River Chinook Salmon are threatened; Lower Columbia River Coho Salmon are endangered; Snake River Chinook fall, spring, and summer Salmon are threatened; Snake River Chinook Salmon are threatened; Snake River Sockeye Salmon are endangered; Southern Oregon Coast Coho Salmon are threatened; Upper Columbia River Spring Chinook Salmon are endangered; and Upper Willamette River Chinook Salmon are threatened.

That doesn’t even list the steelhead and trout species that are threatened or endangered, or the dozens of other species. For a more comprehensive listing of threatened species, look at this ODFW webpage. The state says every dime raised from the new salmon license plates will be spent on the protection and restoration of salmon habitats. 

How to make sure you don’t miss out

The joint press release from both state agencies also says “when and how Oregonians apply for the new plate matters. To guarantee landing a new salmon plate design, vehicle owners need to apply in person, online at DMV2U, or by mail on or after Sept. 1. Orders online or in person before Aug. 31 will receive the classic, or current, license plate.”

The state website says the money goes to the protection and restoration of Oregon salmon habitats through the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB) and the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD). 

OWEB and OPRD originally debuted the salmon plate in 1998, a time when the University of Oregon had a budding young quarterback, still a household name in much of the state, named Joey Harrington. A joint news release from OWEB and OPRD says Oregon received more than $8 million in investments through salmon-plate funding during the 23 years of salmon license  plate availability. 

History of specialty plates in Oregon

The salmon plate is one of the earliest custom-designed license plates Oregon made available. The first custom license plate, available from 1959 to 1964, featured a blue background with yellow font -- the state flag’s colors -- adorned with “Pacific Wonderland” underneath. 

“When coupled with voter-dedicated investments from the state’s lottery, this plate allows salmon supporters to show their true colors and invest in a worthwhile cause — healthy salmon habitat,” OWEB Executive Director Meta Loftsgaarden said in a prepared statement. 

The new license plates are designs created by Gretchen Kirchner, an artist and graphic designer who formerly worked at OWEB. 

For more information about the new salmon license plate, auction rules, and eligibility visit  orsalmonplates.com. Registration fees and ordering information are available on the Oregon DMV website