Nearly a decade ago, a nationwide survey of fish and wildlife agencies recommended an annual authorization of $350 million to stabilize and begin restoring declining wildlife populations. Since then, an unprecedented grassroots initiative has been underway to increase federal funding to the states for this purpose. Although these efforts have been known as Teaming with Wildlife, Conservation and Reinvestment Act (CARA) and the pending American Wildlife Enhancement Act of 2001 (federal Senate Bill 990), the bottom line remains the sameto secure adequate, long-term, annual funding for conservation.
Throughout the nation, citizens have formed state coalitions and remain faithful to answering every rally call for continued support. In Illinois alone, more than 160 organizations have signed on as members of the CARA coalition. With their dedication comes success.
In fiscal year 2001, Congress approved $50 million for state wildlife conservation grants, and Illinois received more than $1.6 million. In FY'02, Congress approved state grants totaling $80 million, with Illinois' share being $2.6 million. The current FY'03 budget request recognizes the need for further support for state wildlife grants and proposes $60 million for this purpose. It is less than last year and an amount that Congress should increase.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has approved three Illinois education projects to be paid from FY' 01 funds, with three additional education projects and one recreation project awaiting final approval. In addition, several conservation projects are being planned. I will summarize them for you.
Approved projects ($550,000):
Expand the Environment and Nature Training Institute for Conservation Education (ENTICE) to provide natural resource training to Illinois educators;
Update the wildlife and natural resources displays at Goose Lake Prairie State Natural Area Visitors Center; and
Publish the Illinois Breeding Bird Atlas and update the Illinois landowner Habitat Guidebook and Prairie Establishment and Landscaping book.
Pending projects ($130,000):
Expand the Urban Fishing Program to reach more children with the fishing message and provide the opportunity to catch fish stocked at public park lagoons and forest preserves;
Expand the Under Illinois Skies program, a partnership between the Chicago Park District and Department of Natural Resources, to provide a three-day outdoor educational camping experience for Chicago youth at Rock Cut State Park; and
Establish a new program called Wilderness Camping Experience, a follow-up to the Under Illinois Skies program. This more challenging, extended educational adventure will take place along the Kishwaukee River in 2002 and in southern Illinois in 2003.
Pending wildlife-associated recreation project ($30,000):
Provide additional fishing equipment for the Access to Fishing program.
Planned conservation projects ($938,000):
Establish wildlife habitat through efforts of the Habitat Team Program;
Control invasive exotic species to protect biodiversity;
Develop guides for eradicating invasive exotic plant species;
Restore approximately 160 acres of wetlands at Cache River State Natural Area; and
Continue conversion of approximately 40 acres to native plant habitat at Starved Rock State Park.
Today, legislation in Congress keeps
evolving and the momentum continues for increased fish and wildlife funding. Please take a few minutes to ask your congressman to support $ 150 million for the new Fish and Wildlife Service State and Tribal Wildlife Grants Program, which would bring $5 million to Illinois next year.
For contact information on the Illinois congressional delegation, see http:// thomas.loc.gov. For further information on the status of current legislative proposals, link to the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies website at www.iafwa.org.
Thank you for your help in keeping the Illinois interest and action strong!