As we near next week’s House Appropriations hearing for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, we look back at budgets for natural resources over the last decade, and forward to what is at stake in the future.
Past cuts have already been deep.
- Since 2002, IDNR’s funding from the state’s General Revenue Funds (from broad taxes, not fees on users of IDNR’s services) has been cut 52%, from $107 million in 2002 to $51 million in 2011.
- There are 615 fewer people at IDNR, from a headcount of 1,986 in 2002 down to 1,371 in the year 2011.
- No GRF and greatly reduced bond-funded capital since FY04 means a $700 million backlog of defer="defer"red maintenance at state parks.
- As a result, the IDNR leaned more heavily on its constituents, through licenses and fees. Balances in funds that hold these revenues have been depleted because of GRF cuts and because of sweeps of cash in those funds. Current projections are that, without some change, most of these other funds (such as Boating, Natural Areas, State Parks, Parks and Conservation) will be drawn to near zero within one to two years.
These trends are not supportable, if we are to keep current services or even grow them to meet emerging needs such as engaging younger generations in nature and the outdoors.
The next several weeks are key. While recent Legislative actions are bringing more revenues into the State’s General Funds, the State as a whole is not out of the woods financially. Revenue projections being used by the Legislature to craft the Fiscal Year 2012 budget are about $2 billion dollars lower than those in the Governor’s introduced budget (which held IDNR whole at least at its current reduced level). It is likely that major additional cuts in state services will be made by the Legislature soon.
What is at stake? Here are some impacts if more General Revenue Funds reductions are made to IDNR.
- GRF supports about one-third of front-line state park staff. Cuts would reduce the quality of resources to park visitors.
- GRF funds half of Conservation Police field officers, with severe implications for public safety: reducing frontline protection for park visitors, emergency/disaster response, hunting and fishing compliance, and natural resources protection.
- GRF pays for all Illinois State Museum facilities (321,000 visitors a year).
- GRF reductions would affect Lake Michigan water allocation, providing water for 7 million residents of NE Illinois, and mandated programs including waterway construction permitting, dam safety, and lock and dam operations on Fox River/Chain O’Lakes.
- GRF reductions would delay or eliminate planning services for state and local trails and parks, natural resources conservation projects, and open space.
- GRF reductions could shut down the mine safety program since GRF provides match for federal funds.
Why should every Illinois resident care? Whether or not you use the state parks, IDNR improves your life every day, by creating jobs, ensuring safety of people and property, providing quality education, making state government more efficient, helping protect our most vulnerable citizens, and preserving our natural resources.
- State parks welcome 45 million visitors annually, supporting $1 billion in visitor spending and 8,500 jobs.
- Outdoor recreation (boating, camping, fishing, hunting, picnicking, sightseeing, wildlife observation, swimming and trail use) creates a $3.2 billion annual economic impact in Illinois supporting 33,000 jobs statewide.
- Regulation of mining and oil and gas production helps sustain 50,000 jobs with $6 billion of annual production in Illinois.
- IDNR regulates dam safety protecting $4.5 billion in real property.
- IDNR coordinates the National Flood Insurance program saving Illinoisans $1.2 million in reduced premiums.
- IDNR helps protect 4.4 million acres of land – including about 1 million acres of agricultural land valued at $5.6 billion and producing $543 million in commodities annually by oversight of a levee system.
- IDNR directs the multi-agency response to the Asian carp invasion in the Chicago area, protecting billions of dollars of trade.
- Illinois Sportsmen Against Hunger provided 2.7 million meals to needy citizens of Illinois; “Target Hunger Now!” program fed more than 1,000 people in Fall 2010.
- Conservation Police, with full police powers and statewide jurisdiction, invest 160,000 man-hours annually protecting Illinois citizens annually, many in underserved areas.
Thank you for your interest in programs of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. I hope we have your continued support and involvement as we work to shape the IDNR of the future in light of new fiscal realities.
Yours in Conservation,
Marc Miller, Director
Illinois Department of Natural Resources