Springfield – Wasting little time in his new job, Gov. Pat Quinn
quickly signed Senate Bill 1132, restoring millions of dollars
illegally swept from six wildlife funds by the Blagojevich
Quinn, who began work on “making things right” with the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service while he was still lieutenant governor,
signed the new law on Feb. 5, four days after the deadline set by
“Conservation and recreation are of great value to our state,”
Quinn said. “These federal funds will ensure that Illinois citizens
can continue to be good stewards of our natural resources and enjoy
Quinn had previously sent a letter to the USFWS asking for more
time and explaining the time constraints on Illinois legislators
due to the January impeachment trial of Blagojevich.
SB 1132 restored money to the Wildlife and Fish Fund, the Fish
and Wildlife Endowment Fund, the State Pheasant Fund, the Illinois
Habitat Endowment Trust Fund, the Illinois Habitat Fund and the
State Migratory Waterfowl Stamp Fund.
Last fall, Blagojevich’s offices swept $9.25 million in
restricted funds. Those restricted funds also were connected to $16
million in federal dollars, which would have been lost had the
money not returned.
The $16 million is Illinois’ estimated share of excise taxes
generated through the sale of outdoor sporting goods and
ammunition. States only collect their shares when they agree to
spend their respective hunting and fishing license and stamp
revenue solely on wildlife habitat conservation projects.
Blagojevich’s office claimed that the money in question was
never spent, just moved into different state accounts.
The USFWS began working with DNR in October and sent a letter to
the governor’s office in December warning that time was running
out. The feds also set a Feb. 1 deadline.
New DNR Director Marc Miller said the new law signed by Quinn
should lead to the restoring of funding from the USFWS, but he
wasn’t sure how interest would impact all the funds.
Conservation groups in the state had spent weeks rallying and
calling attention to the issue.
“Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever commend the Legislature and
new governor for acting together to restore dedicated sportsmen’s
funding,” said Aaron Kuehl, Pheasants Forever/Quail Forever
director of conservation for Illinois.
Kuehl said he’d been working on behalf of PF/QF’s members in the
state since the sweeps occurred.
“All told, we’re talking about over $25 million that desperately
needs to go to the conservation of this state’s natural resources,”