As Director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, I am reminded every day of the passion Illinois citizens have for the outdoors and the natural wonders of our state, and because that passion has translated into action, better days are ahead at the IDNR after a challenging time of steep cuts in state general revenue funding.
The passage this past January of sustainable funding legislation for the IDNR (Public Act 97-1136) is a historic victory for conservation. Drafted with the support of 40 constituent groups, it includes language that ensures these new funds will not be swept out with other purposes. I want to thank you for the commitment to invest in protecting our state’s natural resources.
We are working diligently to apply this new funding to address our most pressing needs. The $2 annual fee from each motor vehicle registration, is allowing us to keep state parks open and we’ve already begun filling dozens of critical frontline staff vacancies. Next, we plan to address a huge backlog of critical maintenance and repair projects at state parks throughout Illinois.
Other fee revenue is just starting to come in. A $6 water usage stamp for non-motorized watercraft (which excludes inner-tubes) will help improve legal and adequate access to rivers and streams for the paddling community. In addition, a $15 off-highway vehicle stamp for ATVs and off-highway motorcycles will also provide funding for trails and help find new ways to provide public access, as well as waterway and park safety enforcement by the Illinois Conservation Police. We are also working to implement other user fees to help cover the costs of environmental reviews, permits, and registrations required by state law.
In addition to managing state parks, wildlife and fish programs, and providing outdoor recreation opportunities, the IDNR oversees several regulatory functions including mining and oil and gas production in the state. New contributions in the form of higher fees agreed to by the Illinois Oil and Gas industry alone will help the IDNR regulate the future Hydraulic Fracturing Industry in Illinois.
In addition to mining, the IDNR also oversees and administers water allocation and water management affecting millions of Illinois residents; and, provides wide-ranging education programs and the cultural, natural heritage, and historical interpretation and protection programs of the Illinois State Museum system. In all, IDNR programs have an annual economic impact of $32 billion and support 90,000 jobs in the state.
The numbers help explain the importance of a strong Department of Natural Resources for the people of Illinois. The passionate support of so many Illinoisans for our mission and our efforts has helped put us on a sustainable path for a strong Department of Natural Resources for years to come.
By Marc Miller
Director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources