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Parks feel budget cuts

July 23, 2008 at 07:14 AM

BRIMFIELD — Tourism. Wildlife. Jobs. Public safety.

A half-dozen advocacy groups met Tuesday at Jubilee College State Park to outline Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s $14 million slash from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources budget.

“The funding is going to be cut as of this Thursday,” warned Bob Jorgensen, chairman of the Heart of Illinois chapter of the Sierra Club, urging outdoors enthusiasts to contact their legislators.

“It’s not just a one-year belt-tightening,” said Eric Schenck, regional biologist for Ducks Unlimited. ” This is the type of cut that will have consequences for several years to come.”

Among the worries:

  • Losing $2.1 million in funding could prevent completion of a water planning study due next June.
  • More than 160 staff positions may be cut at DNR, which probably means some facilities will close. At the end of 2001, there were 1,982 staff members. By the end of 2009, there would be 1,160, a loss of more than 40 percent.
  • Twenty-four more conservation police officers may lose their jobs. There were 172 officers in 2001. There are 133 now, with 24 unfilled positions and a dozen officers expected to retire within a year.

The predicted result is fewer programs and services, more poaching and crime on state grounds. There may be fewer education programs. Annual water surveys could be done only every two to four years. There may be no more reporting deer kills at check points during the hunting season, as well as a major cramp in land acquisitions.

“That is decimating natural resources,” said Claudia Emken of The Nature Conservancy. “It’s something that will take decades, if not longer, to restore.”

The cuts may take effect Thursday, but IDNR spokesman Chris McCloud said there will be no action that day.

“IDNR continues to work towards a management plan that makes the most sense for the agency and the constituents we represent,” he said, adding the governor was forced into this position because there was not enough money in the budget.

But the groups represented at Tuesday’s conference said these reductions may cost more money in the long run, particularly in tourism and recreation. Anaise Berry, director of the Illinois River Road National Scenic Byway, said there are dozens of sites people can visit here “on less than a tank of gas,” which should not be closed when they get there. As Schenk pointed out, Illinois hunters contribute $693 million to the economy each year, generating more than $49 million in state and local taxes.

“Tell the folks in Springfield to get together, quit squabbling, and come up with a solution,” summed up Jen Hensley of the Sierra Club.

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

These cuts sound absolutely ridiculous.  What is going to become of the state when things like this are allowed to happen?

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 07/23 at 09:15 PM

Gov. Rod Blagojevich cares about only two things in this state. Filling his and his friends pockets and taking care of the large trash dump up north.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 07/26 at 10:27 AM

You forgot two things, he cares about his hair and he cares about his butt buddy Emil Jones.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 07/26 at 02:31 PM

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