Swimming upstream faster than the current… (part 1)

Over the last couple of days, Illinois Department of Natural Resources Director Marc Miller has sent out a couple of email that reads like a State of the Union address for the DNR and goes into some detail about the recently passed DNR Sustainability Bill.

This link is in the following letter from Marc Miller, but in case you don't think the IDNR has any effect on your life, you may want to go read this first:

Did You Know? DNR Facts and Figures

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Dear DNR constituent:

The passage of the DNR Sustainability Bill (SB1566) is a significant victory for conservation and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). What the bill does is allow the agency to keep state parks and sites open and begin to address a backlog of needed facility repairs, which now totals $750 million. It also allows us to address other program problems for the agency.

The bill took nearly a year to negotiate and included over 40 DNR constituent groups in talks, who worked with sponsor Rep. Frank Mautino for a consensus bill. A key component and big “win” for conservation included in the bill was the rarely used anti-sweeps language that ensures funds would not be used for other purposes than keeping state parks open and programs working. Governor Pat Quinn’s management and budget director also signed a letter committing to not sweep these funds and hold DNR’s funding level.

This level of commitment to DNR should not be a surprise. During Governor Quinn’s first week on the job and my first day on the job as Director, he signed a different bill that replaced diverted sportsmen’s funds that were swept by our predecessors. We have been working diligently ever since to protect these funds and use them for conservation.

The Sustainability Bill will take effect as law on January 1st, and we project that eventually it will provide DNR with an estimated $30 to $33 million dollars annually to be deposited into dedicated funds connected with each revenue source. There are several steps that the agency needs to take start collecting funds, such as creating rules and regulations and implementing IT infrastructure, and it will be 9 to 12 months before the agency begins to receive the new funding.

I would like to thank those organizations who supported the Sustainability Bill, negotiated its details, and worked for its passage. It is our intent to work as quickly as possible to take the necessary steps to capture new revenues and apply these funds to DNR parks and programs, create new jobs and promote economic development, and to restructure DNR for future generations.

We will uphold our mission of managing the state’s natural resources and begin to repair some of the past neglect from budget cuts. DNR constituents need to understand, however, that victory could be temporary because the state’s budget problems will threaten our progress in the near future. Pension obligations and unpaid bills squeeze agencies like DNR and make General Revenue funds less available for everyday operations. If lawmakers do not act to address the pension squeeze, then everyone’s hard work towards DNR sustainability will be erased by these larger fiscal problems.

Our success at the legislature is one step towards sustainability and demonstrates that we are swimming upstream faster than the current. Stay tuned and I will explain in a second email how you can help DNR and secure the progress we have already made.

Yours in conservation,
Marc Miller, Director
Illinois DNR

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