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Habitat thievery no solution for park dilemma

October 13, 2008 at 05:44 PM

Close the parks.

If stealing is the only solution politicians can dream up to keep Illinois parks open this fall, they should lock the gates. That’s the sad conclusion I’ve reached regarding the latest no-win situation in the world of Illinois natural resources.

Most of you know the story. The budget is unbalanced. State revenues are down. The Department of Natural Resources suffered $14 million in general revenue cuts. And Gov. Blagojevich proposed closing 11 parks and several historic sites to save money.

That prompted predictably angry replies from constituents. In response legislators hastily approved pilfering $221 million from special funds to keep the sites open and to avoid cuts to various social programs. That includes $2 million from the Illinois Habitat Endowment Trust Fund, $1 million from the Illinois habitat fund, $500,000 from the state migratory waterfowl stamp fund and $250,000 from the Illinois Pheasant Fund.

The governor rubber-stamped the sweeps, though he didn’t allocate money and apparently acknowledges “problems” with some dedicated funds. Instead of solving those problems, he dumped the load on Comptroller Dan Hynes. Hynes said he has no authority in the matter.

The entire sequence illustrates Illinois government at its dysfunctional, cowardly worst. This would be funny if it wasn’t so infuriating and so potentially damaging down the road.

The next time an Illinois politician proposes creating “a dedicated fund” he or she should be laughed out of Springfield. Special funds are too ripe for picking in times of need.

Even so, I have for years willingly paid $5.50 for a state habitat stamp and $10.50 for a state waterfowl stamp — fees required of hunters above and beyond the cost of licenses and permits.

I didn’t grumble much about the extra expense. In theory the money paid for hunting ground and critter habitat. Among my favorite fall destinations are Illinois Pheasant Habitat Areas, some of which were bankrolled by habitat stamps.

So I’ve always viewed habitat stamps as necessary user fees in a state where public ground and habitat is in short supply. They’re a pay-to-play tax with very clear objectives.

Problem is, these latest uses are at complete odds with those objectives. Providing habitat does not include paying for toilet paper at state parks or personnel to run bike trails.

More importantly, habitat funds are protected by language built into federal aid programs. Put simply, if you use hunter license fees for the wrong purposes, you will not get matching federal dollars. Due
to previous questionable practices, the federal government is already withholding a $1 million grant from Illinois. This current proposal could endanger another $15 million.

Fortunately, nothing is final. Legislators meet again in November for the veto session. The governor’s office is still taking calls at (217) 782-0244.

My call will include several points.

I want the parks to stay open, but not at the expense of dedicated funds. Stealing isn’t the way to silence all those angry constituents.

Maybe a tax increase is required. Better yet, maybe it’s time to charge user fees at larger state parks. Let’s follow the example of many other states and spread the funding burden with other park users: bikers, hikers, birders and picnickers.

Just don’t expect hunters to willingly pay for habitat stamps if this latest legislative thievery is legalized.

Your CommentsComments :: Terms :: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

I’M GLAD TO SEE YOU ARE FINALLY SEEING THE LIGHT ON THE SWEEP OF FUNDS ISSUE. SEVERAL WEEKS AGO, WHEN THIS WAS FIRST ANNOUNCED I WROTE TIM WALMSLEY AN E-MAIL AND SENT A COPY TO YOU (JEFF LAMPE) AIRING IDENTICALLY WHAT YOU ARE SAYING.

LET’S TAKE IT A STEP FARTHER. EVERYONE IS LOOKING AT THIS ISSUE RIGHT NOW AND RIGHTFULLY SO. BUT BEYOND THAT THE 2010 ELECTION COULD BE A MUCH BIGGER ELECTION THAN OUR 2008 NATIONAL ELECTION FOR THE OUTDOORS PEOPLE OF ILLINOIS.

JUST LOOK AT WHAT HAS HAPPENED. HOW IN THE WORLD CAN WE CORRECT THE PAST 6 YEARS. WE INDIVIDUALLY CANT’T. NO, DON’T JUST GIVE IN. DON’T JUST WRITE YOUR BLOGS GO TO BED AND TO WORK TOMORROW AND DO NOTHING ELSE.

FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO HAVEN’T FOUGHT THE OUTDOORS FIGHT IN SPRINGFIELD BEFORE TAKE IT FROM SOMEONE WHO HAS. WE NEED REPRESENTATION AND WE NEED IT BAD.
WE LOST POWERFUL PEOPLE IN SPRINGFIELD WHO LISTENED TO US WHEN WE SPOKE. I WILL NOT MENTION NAMES BUT THEY WERE A CROSS OF OUTDOORSMAN, POLITICIANS, WRITERS AND BROADCASTERS. THOSE WHO WOULD BE OUT FRONT RIGHT NOW ARE GONE, OR TOO TIRED OF THE FIGHT, WHICH IS AN ANNUAL ONE UNDER THE CURRENT SYSYTEM.

THE WORST PART IS WE THE OUTDOORS PEOPLE HOLD A MAJORITY. A HUGE MAJORITY FAR SURPASSING ANY POLITICAL MAJORITY IN THE STATE. THERE ARE NO BOUNDRIES SEPARATING US. THERE ARE VERY FEW PEOPLE IN THE STATE WHOSE QUALITY OF LIFE IS NOT BETTERED BY PROGRAMS, FACILITIES OR THE WORK DONE BY THE GREAT PEOPLE WHO ARE LEFT IN OUR DNR.

LET’S LOOK AT WHO WE ARE - HUNTERS, FISHERMAN, BOATERS, CANOEISTS, CAMPERS, BIRD WATHERS, WILDLIFE WATCHERS, HIKERS AND ANYONE WHO VENTURES INTO OUR ALL TOO FEW STATE PARKS AND WILDLIFE AREAS. WHEN YOU LOOK AT IT THAT WAY THERE IS A CLEAR CUT GROUP OF ILLINOISIANS WHO CAN MAKE A BIG DFFERENCE. THE PROBLEM IS GETTING EACH OF US TO GIVE UP OUR OWN PERSONAL AGENDAS AND JOIN WITH OTHERS WHO ALSO UTILIZE OUR RESOURCES FOR OTHER REASONS. SOMETIMES THERE IS CONFLICT BETWEEN US. GUN HUNTERS VS. BOWHUNTERS, TOURNAMENT FISHERMAN VS. THE PLEASURE FISHERMAN, THE CANOEIST VS. THE POWER BOATERS. THERE IS NO END TO THESE CONFLICTS. IT’S TIME TO REACH OUT TO EACH OTHER AND MOVE FORWARD TOWARDS SECURING OUR DNR AND ALL OF IT’S ATTRIBUTES AGAINST POLITICAL WARFARE SUCH AS IS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW. AFTER JOINING HANDS AND TAKING BACK WHAT IS RIGHTFULLY OURS WE CAN TURN TO WORKING OUT OUR OWN PERSONAL CONFLICTS. UNTIL WE DO THIS THERE WILL BE BATTLE AFTER BATTLE AND IN THE END NO WINNER, ONLY LOSERS AND YOU KNOW WHO THEY ARE.

I WAS HOPEFUL BRENT MANNING’S CONSERVATION CONGRESS WOULD MOVE US IN THAT DIRECTION BUT IT NEVER HAPPENED. IT’S GOING TO TAKE THAT TYPE OF ALLIANCE TO MOVE US PAST THE PRESENT SITUATION AND INTO THE FUTURE WHERE WE COULD AS A GROUP GET THE PROPER FUNDING FOR THE DNR. FUNDING FREE FROM POLITICAL INFLUENCE OR TAMPERING. IT ONLY TAKES A VERY SMALL PORTION OF THE STATE SALES TAX, A PROPERLY WRITTEN BILL AND THE SUPPORT OF OUR LEGISLATURES AND GOVENOR TO GET THIS ACCOMPLISHED. AGAIN A TALL TASK BUT NOT OUT OF OUR REACH. AGAIN, AS A GROUP, WE CAN SHOW THE POLITICIANS WHO HAS THE POWER TO HIRE AND FIRE THEM.

I COULD GO ON FOR PAGES AND PAGES ABOUT THIS ISSUE BUT IT BOILS DOWN TO YOU AND ME EACH REACHING OUT TO ANOTHER AND THEY IN TURN TO ANOTHER AND ANOTHER. A SHORT TIME AND WITH JUST A LITTLE LEADERSHIP OUR GOAL COULD BE REALIZED. AS IT IS NOW…......ANOTHER BLAGO DOWN THE ROAD, ANOTHER JONES DOWN THE ROAD, ANOTHER HILL TO CLIMB BEFORE WE FACE THE MOUNTAIN. IT’S TIME TO FACE THE MOUNTAIN NOW!

SOMEONE OUT THERE WITH THE DRIVE TO FURNISH SOME LEADERSHIP LET US KNOW WHO YOU ARE. IT WON’T BE EASY BUT THERE ARE HUNDREDS OF US WHO WOULD JOIN YOU.

FISH85458

Posted by BRAD BROWN on 10/13 at 08:31 PM

I don’t know how to contact him, but we do have a big time celebrity from central Illinois who might be willing to help.  Jim Thome is a pretty dedicated hunter and it seems he still does a lot of hunting in Illinois.  I understand he owns a lot of ground himself, but he also seems to be pretty active with charities and other causes.  I’m not sure how his celebrity could help the cause, but I know he seems to be very popular across all lines.  If nothing else, maybe he would help bring some of these different groups together.(i.e. gun hunters vs. bow hunters etc.)  Just an idea.  Maybe someone else will know if or how he could be helpful.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 10/14 at 10:21 AM

Not sure, but maybe the best bet is constitutional convention.  Dedicate a portion of the sales tax—constitutionally—to the DNR.  It might be hard to convince others that the DNR budget should be entitled to constitutional protection, but if you present it as an environmental issue (protect Earth), it may have a chance.  Plus, there is the possibility of joining with suburban republicans who nead the votes to beat Chicago democrats and extracting some concessions from them in return.  I’m probably going off half cocked here, but it’s worth thinking about.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 10/19 at 09:55 PM

And, furthermore, on a subject closer to the article this is appended to, I don’t necessarily oppose the funding sweeps.  If there is truly an emergency, I think its okay to rearrange the budget.  However, I question whether this is really an emergency or just a stubborn refusal to recognize reality and deal with the lack of federal money flowing to the states in a realistic manner.  Those funds have to be replaced, or programs have to be cut.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 10/19 at 10:00 PM

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