The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

Sports

June 29, 2012

IDNR bill fails to pass

DANVILLE — House Bill 4193 failed to pass about a month ago. This bill would have provided much needed funds for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Nobody wants to pay more taxes or fees but the IDNR is in terrible shape and this might show outdoor readers of this column what it means.

Much of the budget and the staff of the IDNR agencies have been cut significantly over recent years. Just to give you some idea of the losses as of the 2013 budget, look at these figures over the last five years:

Architecture, Engineering and Grants — Staff 22 percent, Funding 21percent

Land Management — Staff 24 percent, General Rev. 44 percent

Law Enforcement — Staff 19 percent, State Funds 42 percent

Mines and Minerals — Staff 37 percent, General Rev. 43 percent

Reality and Environmental Planning — 43 percent of General Rev/ Funds

Resource Conservation — loss of 75 percent Federal Funding

State Museums — Reduction in open hours

Water Resources — Staff 10 percent, State Funds 22 percent

There are 29 program reductions or eliminations and an overall agency budget reduction of $33,973,000 which is 13.5 percent, the highest in the state.

Here are some areas that will affect the outdoor community; these are just a few that caught my eye and by no means all mentioned.

The one that I saw that really caught my attention was the fact that the number of Conservation Police Officers (CPO) is at an all-time low with only 125 sworn law enforcement personnel as of February of this year with more retirements due this year.

This means that 33 of the state’s 102 counties will have no resident CPO. The Office of Law Enforcement is hiring a class in FY2012, the last one prior to that was in FY 2007. Current revenues are not sufficient to hire a new class every year or every other year.

The latest figures from the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimate migratory bird hunters contributed more than $58.8 million dollars to the Illinois economy in 2005 alone. The reduction or elimination of maintenance and rehabilitation projects to water control structures, water management and pump station facilities, and levee repairs will mean less opportunity for migratory birders and less money spent by hunters throughout the state.

The state park system faces over $750 in deferred maintenance and capital needs, including deteriorating bath and shower facilities, outdated and dangerous electrical systems, concerns with potable water systems because of well failures and testing issues, failure of sewage treatment facilities, and an inability to repair roads, bridges, and trails damaged because of storms. Many site structures now have leaky roofs.

These are just a very few of the many things facing the IDNR in the report I just finished reading. The debt our state faces is staggering and the IDNR is taking a big hit. My concern as an outdoors person is how badly the wildlife will suffer and how bad will our state park system deteriorate before something is done about it? A solution needs to be found and unfortunately the solution will probably come from our pockets.

Sam Van Camp writes about the outdoors on Fridays and Sundays. Call him at 662-6559. Fax: 446-6648. E-mail: pamnsam@nwcable.net

 

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