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Monday, October 19, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Mount St. Helens license plates a popular notion

UPDATED: Wed., Dec. 25, 2019

A peaceful Mt. St. Helens is covered in snow 30 years after the May 18, 1980 eruption. Tired of seeing Mount Rainier on the vehicle in front of you? Clark County residents may soon be able to buy license plates featuring a mountain closer to home. (Christopher Anderson / The Spokesman-Review)
A peaceful Mt. St. Helens is covered in snow 30 years after the May 18, 1980 eruption. Tired of seeing Mount Rainier on the vehicle in front of you? Clark County residents may soon be able to buy license plates featuring a mountain closer to home. (Christopher Anderson / The Spokesman-Review)
By Jeffrey Mize The Columbian

Tired of seeing Mount Rainier on the vehicle in front of you?

Clark County residents may soon be able to buy license plates featuring a mountain closer to home.

The Mount St. Helens Institute is working with Rep Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, to get legislative approval next year for a Mount St. Helens license plate that would raise money for the nonprofit institute. The effort is timely with the upcoming 40th anniversary of the volcano’s cataclysmic eruption on May 18, 1980.

“Portland has Hood, Seattle has Rainier,” said Ray Yurkewycz, executive director of the Mount St. Helens Institute. “Southwest Washington has Mount St. Helens.”

The institute has launched an online petition drive, with the goal of collecting 4,000 signatures by the time the 2020 Legislature convenes Jan. 13. As of Tuesday morning, it already had collected more than 1,300 signatures in the first few days of launching its campaign.

Don Clark of Invisible Creature in Maple Valley designed the license plate for free, Yurkewycz said.

“Apparently license plates are like postage stamps,” he said. “It’s something artists like to do.”

The plate depicts Mount St. Helens, with a scoop of earth removed from its north side during the 1980 lateral eruption, along with trees and a mountain goat symbolizing the mountain’s recovery from the ferocious power uncorked on a Sunday morning nearly 40 years ago.

“It’s a classic view, looking across Spirit Lake from Bear Pass,” Yurkewycz said.

Yurkewycz said he did not provide direction to Clark but was pleased with his creation. Mountain goats, he said, have made a huge comeback, with an estimated 400 living on Mount St. Helens and adjacent areas.

“I just wanted to see what they came up with,” he said. “It was beautiful.”

The institute needs 3,500 signatures from Washington residents but is shooting for 4,000 to provide extra cushion. The form asks people how many plates they want, but Yurkewycz said signing doesn’t create any obligation to purchase a plate.

“Just expressing intent,” he said. “Nobody is holding you to it.”

Yurkewycz said he believes the prospects for legislative approval are strong. The institute went to the 2019 Legislature without a plate design or petition signatures. The House Transportation Committee and the full House of Representatives both unanimously approved the bill before the legislation stalled in the Senate Transportation Committee because supporters had not gone through all the steps, he said.

The Mount St. Helens Institute works to improve understanding and stewardship through science, education and exploration of volcanic landscapes. Since 2000, the institute has reached more than 30,000 people through field seminars, guided hikes and climbs, free outings and work parties.

Washington already offers more than 50 special design license plates. Yurkewycz said special plates typically cost drivers an extra $30, with $2 for the state and $28 for the specific cause, which would be the institute.

“It’s about keeping this place relevant,” he said. “It’s also a good opportunity to support science. It’s one of the most studied landscapes in the country.”

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