New License Plate Supports Oregon Salmon Habitat


Salem, OR — Oregonians have a new way to show their support for salmon habitat. A new salmon license plate design was made available Sep. 1, with proceeds dedicated to salmon habitat restoration.

The Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB) and Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) first debuted the salmon plate in 1998. Revenue from the specialty plate protects and restores native salmon habitat. To date over $8 million of salmon plate funding has been invested in Oregon.

“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,” says Meta Loftsgaarden, recent Executive Director of the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board.

In 2015, legislation passed to make sure that proceeds go directly toward projects that restore the streams, rivers and estuaries salmon require at every stage in their life cycle. Salmon hatch in freshwater rivers and streams, migrate to the ocean, then return years later to their natal stream to spawn before dying. Restoration projects include removing invasive plants along waterways, planting native trees and shrubs, and placing large logs in rivers to create cool, slow-moving pools to protect eggs and young salmon.

The original salmon plate was one of the earliest custom designs available in Oregon. The new design is a colorful upgrade, showing spawning salmon in a clear stream. The image was created by Gretchen Kirchner, an amateur artist and former graphic designer for Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board.

Kirchner used watercolor pencil for the original artwork and Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator to idealize it for plate usage. Her challenge was to create a realistic portrayal of salmon native to Oregon while also meeting the design requirements for a license plate. She examined many photographs and consulted with OWEB’s biologist to perfect each detail, from the colors to the adipose fin.

“I love knowing that each time the new plate is purchased, funds will be directed toward salmon recovery,” Kirchner said. “Salmon are a vital natural resource for so many people, and a vital component of a healthy watershed.” 

Those who have the classic salmon plate can keep it on their car if they choose, while still supporting habitat projects. The old design, however, is no longer for sale.

The new plates are available for passenger vehicles through the Oregon Department of Transportation’s Driver and Motor Vehicle Services (DMV) website.  More information is available at

About Author

Diane Navarrete is a Communications Specialist with Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.

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