Guest Column: Don’t do it, Governor!
President, Illinois Paddling Council
Dear paddlers and nature folks: We need your help.
I just spoke to Stacy Myers-Glenn, who is coordinator of Public Policy for our partner OpenLands. Stacy is leading the effort to restore immunity from liability for landowners. This is The Paddling Council’s No. 1 priority, since it strongly affects all paddlers. In Illinois, most of our rivers are treated like private property and are subject to the whims of the riparian “owner.”
Without protection from liability, an owner who owns both sides of the river can simply decide to close the river if they get nervous. This is exactly why the cement company closed the Vermilion, Illinois’ only high-quality whitewater river, almost two years ago, and it could happen again.
According to Stacy, work on recreational liability cannot proceed now with the budget being debated, but there is one very important thing paddlers can do. The governor has decided to “borrow” the funds from the DNR that are used to purchase land. Without that money, the DNR will not be able to acquire any more land, river or otherwise. Borrowing this money likely means it will never be returned. The DNR will be seriously crippled, and acquiring additional public land will stop for the foreseeable future. Write to the governor and tell him not to borrow the money. Here are the details from Chicago Wilderness:
• Contact the Governor’s Office at 217-782-0244 to express your concerns and urge the restoration of the Illinois Open Space Land Acquisition and Development (OSLAD) and Natural Areas Acquisition Fund (NAAF) funds.
• Follow up with an e-mail by going to the governor’s website by going to: http://www2.illinois.gov/gov/Pages/ContacttheGovernor.aspx.
• Or send a letter to the Office of the Governor, 207 State House, Springfield , IL 62706 , reiterating you want the governor to restore the money borrowed from the Illinois Open Space Land Acquisition and Development (OSLAD) and Natural Areas Acquisition Funds (NAAF)
The Illinois Governor’s Office has used its interfund borrowing powers to take $23 million from the Open Space Land Acquisition and Development (OSLAD) fund and an additional $9 million from other IDNR administered funds, including $3.5 million from the Natural Areas Acquisition Fund (NAAF). The OSLAD Grant program was established in 1986 to provide funding assistance to local government agencies for acquisition and/or development of land for public parks and open space. The program matches funds provided by park districts, municipalities, forest preserve districts and other local government entities, providing up to 50 percent of the funding. NAAF funds are used to purchase and maintain unique, irreplaceable natural areas. The areas are home to the state’s endangered and threatened plants and animals and provide research, education and recreation opportunities. Both programs are funded by non-General Revenue Fund (non-GRF) dollars dedicated through the real estate transfer tax. Of every dollar collected through the real estate transfer tax, 50 cents goes to OSLAD and NAAF and 50 cents goes into a fund for affordable housing.
Don’t do it, Governor! Over the past several years, funding for the program has been drastically reduced because of the recent decline in the housing market. March 10, the governor announced his intention to use his interfund borrowing powers to take $23 million from the OSLAD fund and an additional $9 million from other IDNR administered funds, including $3.5 million from the Natural Areas Acquisition Fund (NAAF). This is the second such “borrowing” of OSLAD funds in the past six months. In September, the Governor’s Office took an additional $15 million from OSLAD. This totals more than $38 million taken from OSLAD within the last six months. Although this money supposedly must be paid back with interest within 18 months, these actions have the immediate effect of a “sweep” and will be devastating to the OSLAD and NAAF programs. We are extremely concerned about IDNR’s ability to make any OSLAD grants or to purchase high quality natural areas from willing sellers while the prices are advantageous until these funds are restored.
For questions, you can contact:
Lenore Beyer-Clow, Openlands: 312-863-6264,firstname.lastname@example.org; Peter Murphy, Illinois Association of Park Districts: 217-523-4554, email@example.com; or Susan Donovan, The Nature Conservancy: 312-580-2160, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks, our natural lands and waters need you to act right now.
From the March 23-29 issue