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Tags raising money for Friends of the Smokies

Those sporting the trendy turquoise and pink Great Smoky Mountains National Park license plates on their bumpers raised $181,800 this year for projects sponsored by the Friends of Smokies, making 2005 the most productive year yet for the specialty license plates.

The specialty plates cost an extra $30. Twenty dollars from each plate goes to Friends of the Smokies to support projects and programs on the North Carolina side of the national park. Launched in 1999, the Smokies license plate has now raised a grand total of $716,400.

Here are a few ways that the Friends group put these funds to work in 2005:

• $55,000 for renovations and operations at the Appalachian Highlands Science Learning Center near Maggie Valley

• $47,000 to support Student Conservation Association interns

• $20,000 to support the 5th year of the experimental return of elk to the Smokies

• $20,000 for the “Parks as Classrooms” program for local schoolchildren

• $18,000 to help protect the park’s Fraser firs and hemlock trees from deadly exotic insects

• $9,000 for backcountry trail and safety programs.

“We sincerely appreciate all the North Carolinians who have bought or renewed their Smokies plates this year,” said Stephen W. Woody, vice chairman of the Board of Directors of Friends of the Smokies. “We are very thankful for all the projects they make possible, and we look forward to doing even more in 2006.”

Friends of the Smokies is an independent, non-profit organization that supports conservation, education, and other priorities in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Smokies plate is available any time from any local North Carolina license plate agency office. More information is available online at www.friendsofthesmokies.org or by calling 828.452.0720.

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