DNR Chief of Staff clarifies: Agency not in danger of shutting down

DNR’s chief of staff – yes, there is such a position – is backing off claims attributed to him earlier this week about the uncertain future of the agency.

On Tuesday, Jay Curtis, who works directly under DNR Director Marc Miller and also carries the title of Director of Legislative Affairs, was being interviewed by WUIS, a public affairs station in Springfield. The topic was Gov Pat Quinn’s proposed 13.5 percent budget cut for DNR. After explaining that the department’s budget shrunk from $106 million dollars to $45 million over the past decade and that the agency has lost over half its employees, Curtis added, “It’s hard to operate an agency when that happens. We’re one of the broadest in scope of all agencies in the state. We affect people’s lives everywhere in the state. We own property and we have a presence in every county in the state.”

But it’s what came before those comments by Curtis that caused ‘gulps’ around the state and eventually a clarification.

The headline on Tuesday’s piece – it appeared on the WUIS web site – read “Illinois Department of Natural Resources Claims It Won’t Survive Without More Funding.” And the brief started this way: “Governor Pat Quinn’s proposed budget cuts to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources are so severe, the agency’s chief of staff says it’s on the brink of closing.”

Curtis wasn’t quoted with that opening statement, but today WUIS followed up with a piece headlined “DNR Backs State Parks Entrance Fees, Clarifies Agency Not Closing Its Doors.”

“A five dollar to ten dollar fee for entrance – there would be people in this state that would have an effect on,” Curtis is quoted by WUIS. “But by and large just about everyone could afford that entrance. It’s still a cheaper option, than you know, going to Six Flags, or taking the trip to Florida people can’t afford right now.”

The WUIS piece ends by noting that, “contrary to earlier comments … Curtis says the department isn’t in immediate danger of shutting down.”

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