Plan would move Natural History Survey from DNR

Springfield – DNR field staff have been told not to publicly
discuss Gov. Blagojevich’s 2009 budget proposals, which call for
greater reliance on dollars from the sale of permits and
licenses.

The proposed $223.3 million budget is about a $10 million
increase over last year, but calls for $26.6 million less funding
from general state tax revenue.

In the days following the governor’s unveiling, DNR spokesman
Chris McCloud said the agency “is still going through the final
proposed budget and should have more analysis in the days
ahead.”

Biologists across the agency deflected all questions concerning
the budget to McCloud, hinting they were given orders not to
opine.

One bit of relief for the state’s outdoors-types was the fact
that DNR will not attempt to bolster its bottom line by charging
entrance fees to state parks, as had been rumored prior to the
proposed budget’s release.

More notable in the budget is a plan to transfer the Illinois
Natural History Survey, Geologic Survey, Water Survey and Waste
Management and Resource Center to the University of Illinois.

The proposed reduction in general funds going to DNR reflects
money transferred to the University of Illinois to pay staff and
operate the surveys. A staff reduction of 200 that appears in the
DNR budget is actually a result of employees moving under the
University of Illinois’ payroll, McCloud said.

About 250 staff positions in the surveys are paid through
general revenue funds.

Hunters and anglers are most affected by the Natural History
Survey, an arm of DNR that has provided much wildlife research and
support over the years. Survey biologists and ecologists conduct
annual aerial waterfowl surveys, study furbearers and upland game
and even research hunters themselves.

Popular holdings of the History Survey include the Frank C.
Bellrose Waterfowl Research Center near Havana and the Center for
Wildlife and Plant Ecology.

If approved by the state Legislature and endorsed by the
Illinois Board of Higher Education, the University of Illinois
Board of Trustees and the Urbana-Champaign Senate, the transfer
would take place July 1.

It’s still early to determine how the transfer will be
perceived, but, “At this point, I have not heard anyone raising any
complaints,” Sen. Mike Frerichs, D-Gifford, said.

According to the plan, services offered by the History Survey to
DNR would remain the same.

“The work of the surveys has helped to address real-world
problems for the people of the state of Illinois,” University
Chancellor Richard Herman said in a press release. “This is fully
in keeping with our land-grant mission.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *