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April 9, 2003

Natural Resources budget focuses on safety and keeping parks open

SPRINGFIELD, ILL. - Under Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich’s proposed spending plan, the Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) fiscal year 2004 General Revenue Fund (GRF) budget is $103.5 million, a $31.7 million reduction in program and operating costs from the current fiscal year.

The budget focuses on the department’s core missions – protecting natural resources and providing public outdoor recreational opportunities. All state parks and other facilities, such as museums and art galleries, at nearly 300 locations and spanning more than 450,000 acres, will remain open during the coming year. More than 42 million people visit Illinois state parks annually, making them a key component in economic development and tourism in the state.

In addition, the department will continue to focus on public safety and the protection of the state’s natural resources by hiring conservation police officers to replace those lost to last year’s early retirement incentive. A training class for new officers will be begin in the fall, building on the class of new recruits that is currently underway, and bringing the number of sworn officers to 168.

“Our top priorities are to keep all the parks open and to help ensure the safety of visitors at our facilities by hiring additional conservation police officers,” said Joel Brunsvold, DNR director. “Our parks are an investment by all Illinoisans and it is important they are kept open for the public’s enjoyment.”

In addition to GRF funds, fees, dedicated funding and federal dollars bring DNR’s total operating budget for FY04 to $202 million, down $17.2 million from FY03. If the department’s construction program is considered, the agency’s total FY04 budget is $549.8 million, $203.7 million lower than FY03.

In keeping with the governor’s directive to reduce administrative costs, the department is cutting $6.1 million in FY04, in addition to a $4.1 million reduction in the current fiscal year. Part of these cuts are attributable to staffing reductions. DNR’s FY04 staffing level is 1,990, a drop of 126 from FY03.

In addition to cutting administrative costs, the department is making other reductions in the current fiscal year. FY03 reductions include $11 million in operations, $9.2 million in grants, $5.8 million in waterway improvements and $16.8 million in permanent improvements. Corresponding reductions will be reflected in the FY04 budget.

The Open Land Trust Program and the Public Museum Capital Grant Program each are being cut by $31 million. Each program will receive $5 million in FY04, sufficient funding to allow the state to acquire critical natural lands and to make needed improvements to some of the state’s world class museums, albeit at greatly reduced levels.


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