Governor Pat Quinn has decided to “borrow” money from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) Open Space Land Acquisition and Development (OSLAD) and the Natural Area Acquisition Fund (NAAF) to breach the shortfall while the budget is being debated. Borrow is in quotations marks, but there should also be a question mark after it as does anyone really think those funds will be returned?
On March 10, 2011, the governor announced his intention to use his inter-fund borrowing powers to take $23 million from the OSLAD fund and an additional $9 million from other IDNR administered funds, including $3.5 million from the Natural Areas Acquisition Fund (NAAF). In September the governor already “borrowed” $15 million from the OSLAD. When will this stop?
These funds are crucial for the department to buy new lands to protect threatened species and environments and without it the agency will be crippled for some time to come. In the past year the DNR purchased the Yorkville Whitewater Park and signed a lease on the Vermilion River allowing it to open. The Illinois Paddling Association states that “there is simply no other governmental agency which has more to do with paddling, and recently they have come through for us in spectacular fashion.”
Unlike the Wisconsin DNR, the Illinois DNR does not charge entrance fees to Illinois State Parks. Unless one camps overnight, visitors will not shell out money to stay in an Illinois State Park. While the lack of this cost is welcome, it has its repercussions at times like this. This means that when the governor decides to dip his hand in the IDNR cookie jar there are no cookies baking in the oven to offset the pillage. If the governor does not stop taking funds earmarked for conservation then we will likely see new fees levied in order to generate revenue.
While Illinois has some great parks it ranks pretty low on the list of states in public lands. In fact the National Wilderness Institute ranked Illinois 44th in percentage of public lands in a 1995 study. While a 16-year-old chart may seem outdated, not much has changed in the state, and with plans to cripple the agency in charge of acquiring more lands Illinois will continue to languish in this dubious category.
The IDNR needs your help. Please contact the governor’s office at 217-782-0244. Follow it up with an email here. Another option is to send a letter to: Office of the Governor, 207 State House, Springfield, IL 62706. Another option is to contact your legislator. Click here to find them.
Any questions please contact these individuals: For questions, you can contact: Lenore Beyer-Clow, Openlands: 312-863-6264, [email protected]; Peter Murphy, Illinois Association of Park Districts: 217 523-4554, [email protected]; Susan Donovan, The Nature Conservancy: 312-580-2160, [email protected]
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