Park License Plates: Take II

Washington Parks Specialty License PlateDid you know that there are projects within the Park Service which have been funded in part through the sale of specialty license plates? About a month ago I wrote a post about National Parks displayed on state license plates around the country. I must admit that the Park Remark Research Dept. (me) missed the bigger story. Fortunately two readers shared comments on where to find more plates. It turns out that at least 9 states have specialty plates which can be purchased for an additional fee. The extra fee is then routed through an organization that has a cooperating partnership with a park (frequently referred to as a "friends group"). The friends group then channels this money to its park, earmarking the funds for specific priority projects within the park including things like exhibit design, restoration, interpretation and resource protection.

The National Park Service has web page written specifically for friends groups about how to implement a specialty plate program. The page suggests that the program has been quite a success for participating parks. It claims that Yosemite National Park pulls in an additional $1 million dollars annually through the specialty plate program organized by the Yosemite Fund.

State -> Benefiting Park -> Friends Group (with plate photo)
While these plates are a great way to show off personal pride for our National Parks, the question needs to be asked, should the operation of our parks be dependent upon this gifted money? As the budgets of our favorite parks get squeezed, we lovers of the parks want to do everything we can to help. I wonder though if it is possible that we are sending a message to congress which suggests that "it is OK to short-change the NPS budget because our private dollars will cover the gap". Anyone else wonder the same thing?