ILLINOIS FISHERIES MANAGEMENT FUND UPDATE/ALERT
So what is happening with the proposal made last year to establish an Illinois Fisheries Management Fund? Well, thanks to the e-mails, letters, and calls made by Illinois’ anglers to members of the Illinois General Assembly and the Illinois DNR Director, an addition was made to the Illinois DNR Sustainability Bill which established a Fisheries Management Fund to which approximately $1.6 million will be deposited each and every year. Please note that this money for Fisheries did not come about as a result of any increased fees for Illinois anglers……rather, it comes from a long pre- existing fund source……..from now on, 80%, rather than 100%, of all revenues derived from fees paid for certificates of title will be expended for acquisition and development of bike paths. The other 20% ($1.6 million/year) must now be placed in the Fisheries Management Fund and may only be used for the operation of the DNR Division of Fisheries.
Now, you might be thinking, no more needs to be done to reverse the fortunes of the Division of Fisheries, whose staffing levels have fallen 55% (from 146 to 68) the past decade. WRONG!!!!! Although the gains made in 2012 were positive, the fact is that the Fisheries gain of $1.6 million/year can easily be wiped out by simply reducing the Division of Fisheries share of the Wildlife and Fish Fund (where all license and sport fishing excise tax monies are deposited) by a like amount. There is still no protection of the hard-earned money anglers pay each year for the protection, enhancement, and management of Illinois’ sport fishing and aquatic resources……presently, the angler paid portion ($14-15 Million/year) is co-mingled with other funds in the Wildlife and Fish Fund and expended on what are called “license eligible expenses”, many of which have nothing to do with sport fishing or aquatic resources!!! The absolute need for depositing all fishing related fines, license fees, and sport fishing federal excise tax monies into the Illinois Fisheries Management Fund as the only way to ensure these monies are spent on what they were truly intended for, was made crystal clear by the Illinois DNR’s response to my Freedom of Information request last year. The April 30, 2012 request was answered some two months later, with the DNR advising that they could not find any documents relative to how much Wildlife and Fish Fund monies were spent for the operation of the Division of Fisheries (or for any of the other DNR Divisions or Offices which was also requested ) for the years 2000-2011. In addition, there is a critical need included in the draft bill that the DNR Fisheries Division Chief be a required link in the required approval process chain for authorizing expenditures from the Fisheries Management Fund. Further, the draft bill clearly defines just what expenditures Fisheries Management Fund monies may be spent on. Such changes will create a system of disclosure for expenditures and make the Illinois DNR truly accountable to Illinois anglers and constituents.
To achieve the needed protection of angler dollars and our precious fisheries resources, an Illinois Fisheries Management Fund bill needs to be introduced into the General Assembly. Legal expertise was sought and utilized in drafting the proposed bill, which incorporates desperately needed changes to the Fish and Aquatic Life Code, Wildlife Code, and the Illinois Civil Statutes. This draft bill will accomplish the desired protections described above. We have attached a one page document explaining the need for establishing the Illinois Fisheries Management Fund. This document provides the information you will need as you make contact with your legislators via e-mail or phone. If any of you wish to have a copy of the draft bill, just send Mike Conlin or J.R. Black an e-mail and we will get it to you in short order.
I met with Representative Frank Mautino (D-Spring Valley) on January 25, 2013 and fully discussed the current funding plight of the Illinois DNR’s Division of Fisheries and how the Fisheries Management Fund draft bill was absolutely crucial to insure that our children and grandchildren have quality fishery and aquatic resources to enjoy and nurture during their lifetimes. Representative Mautino made no commitment to sponsor the Fisheries Management Fund bill at our meeting, but he displayed genuine concern for the decimation that has befallen the once proud Illinois DNR Fisheries Management Program.
NEEDED IMMEDIATE ACTION
Contact Representative Frank Mautino (e-mail: [email protected]
; phone 217-782-0140) and do two things:
• Thank him for his leadership last year in achieving some assistance for Fisheries in his DNR Sustainability Bill; and
• Politely ask him to help Illinois’ 1.2 million anglers by sponsoring the Illinois Fisheries Management Fund bill (a copy of which was given to him on January 25, 2013).
Also contact your state legislators (both House and Senate) and ask them for their help in sponsoring and passing the Illinois Fisheries Management Fund bill. Your local legislators may be found by going to www.elections.il.gov
. At the top left of the page you may search for your legislators by clicking on #4. District/Official Search.
IF ANGLERS WORK HARD AND WORK TOGETHER LIKE WE DID LAST YEAR, WE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE!!!!! PLEASE MAKE YOUR CONTACTS NOW.
Mike Conlin e-mail: [email protected]
Illinois DNR Fisheries Chief (RETIRED) 1971-2009
J.R. Black e-mail: [email protected]t
Executive Director, Northern Illinois Anglers Association