We are just a couple of weeks into the year and 2012 is shaping up to be an interesting year for state parks. Unfortunately, this is not simply a year to celebrate the natural wonders of our state parks. This is the year that we are going to have to work together to protect and defend our state parks.
Challenges to our state parks are coming at many levels. Today, the LaSalle County Board will vote on a proposal to allow Mississippi Sands LLC to operate a sand mine just outside of the east gates of Starved Rock State Park. Mining operations will have many negative effects on the state park. The Illinois Sierra Club and many of IEC’s affiliates have been working to ask the LaSalle County Board to vote against this proposal. Take action with the Illinois Sierra Club here and watch for updates through their twitter feed. The meeting is set to start at 1PM this afternoon. This recent article in the Chicago Tribune summarizes this issue.
At the state and federal level, funding for state parks has been challenged across the country. This summer, the New York Times published an article about the effects of strapped state budgets on state parks. The outlook in many states is dismal. Across the country, state park agencies are relying on new fees, volunteer clean ups, and new rights for industrial companies to use state park land in order to sustain operations and access.
At our annual meeting in December, Director Marc Miller of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, outlined the budgetary challenges that IDNR will face at the end of the FY2012 (fiscal year running from July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2012) and into FY2013. Continued reliance on our state’s General Revenue Fund (GRF) is proving risky due to the state budget deficit, stagnating economic activity and a long list of competing priorities.
The legislative session will begin January 31. IEC’s lobby day will occur during the last week of March. (Watch your e-mail list next week for a Save the Date). While we don’t yet know all of the solutions needed to protect our state parks, we know that we’ll need help from our supporters; that‘s you. I will keep you updated as we learn more about 2012 proposals and hope we can work together to defend our beloved parks from the effects of our state’s fiscal crisis in the 2012 session.