Update 2/9/09: New Illinois Governor Quinn Makes Big Moves for Conservation
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Blagojevich Removed From Office: The impeachment and removal from office of Governor Blagojevich on 1/29/09 has provided reasonable hope for the future of the IDNR, but the long-term situation is still problematic. Newly-installed Illinois Governor Quinn has voiced support for re-opening closed state sites, but has not yet addressed the more fundamental problems faced by the department. Background: Following an earlier announcement regarding the closure of multiple state parks and historic sites, the Illinois Senate approved a Restricted Fund "Sweep" within the IDNR budget on 9/23/08. As the measure headed to the Governor's desk, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that it had begun witholding federal matching funds until the DNR responds to questions regarding the disposition of nearly $600,000 in hunting and fishing license dollars. While funding was expected to be restored for the sites that were originally scheduled to close in November, most of the sites have closed. Meanwhile, loss of funds from the restricted accounts and Federal matching grants will greatly impact ILDNR programs and initiatives throughout the state.
Status On 1/25/09
Resolution Finally In Sight: In an unexpected move, Governor Blagojevich appointed a new IDNR Director only days before his impeachment trial was scheduled to begin. However, the impeachment proceedings by the Illinois House and Senate are likely to remove the Governor from office and allow for a re-evaluation of the appointment and the ILDNR budget in general. Eventual outcomes are expected to include the return of restricted funds "swept" away in 2008. Healing will take some time, as many problems are expected to remain. IllinoisHunter.com will be taking a closer look at this fast-moving situation in the next few weeks.
Status On 10/25/08
No Resolution In Sight: Eleven state parks were originally scheduled to close on November 1st. On September 17th, the Illinois Governor's Office stated that the park closures were delayed until November 30th to work out details related to employment issues. Legislative actions by the Illinois House and Senate made some persons hopeful that the closures could be avoided, and the Illinois Senate approved a fund "Sweep" within the IDNR budget on 9/23/08. As the measure headed to the Governor's desk, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that it had begun witholding federal matching funds until the DNR responds to questions regarding the disposition of nearly $600,000 in hunting and fishing license dollars.
The situation still remains unclear at best. The measure that landed on the Governor's desk was intended to restore funding to keep the targeted sites open, but created a larger problem by the process of "sweeping" funds from "restricted" state accounts - many of which support the basic operation of a wide variety of IDNR activities throughout the state. Federal matching dollars are also tied to many of the raided funds. We anticipate that dramatic budget cuts directly related to hunting programs and initiatives throughout Illinois will continue to be made, even at state sites that were not on the original closure list.
Meanwhile, loss of funds from the restricted accounts and loss of Federal matching grants will continue to dramatically and negatively impact IDNR programs throughout the state. There is a great concern statewide regarding a "worst case" scenario: that all of the closures will continue, and that the funds already swept from the IDNR budget will simply be redistributed within the general state budget for other purposes.
We ask the Governor to remember early campaign promises to support hunting and conservation efforts, as detailed in the vintage campaign flyer which contained the above photo.
The IL DNR sites originally scheduled for closure in November are: