Illinois May Lose Federal Funding
Pheasants Forever (PF) and Quail Forever (QF) are urging all Illinois members to contact their state legislators and ask them to support legislation restoring funding to dedicated conservation accounts. The Illinois General Assembly must act this month to restore $9.25 million in restricted funds diverted to pay state bills, or the state risks losing $16 million in federal dollars for fish and wildlife management. Pheasants Forever and other conservation organizations are working with legislators to ensure legislation is introduced and passed, but we need your help! Please contact your elected official today to let them know you want these monies back where they belong - Find House and Senate Contact Info Here.
The money is part of $221 million swept last fall to help reduce the state's budget deficit. Included were the Pheasant Fund, Habitat Fund, Habitat Endowment Trust Fund, Wildlife and Fish Fund, Migratory Waterfowl Stamp Fund and Fish and Wildlife Endowment Fund - all of which are funded through hunting and fishing licenses, stamps and additional fees.
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has issued a response giving the State of Illinois until February 1st, 2009, to return the six dedicated sportsmen's funds with interest, or forfeit an estimated $16 million annually in federal aid. 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.
"We have over 8,700 Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever members in this state that are outraged over the handling of their funds. And they truly are 'their' funds - along with all the other sportsmen and women in this state who pay for the privilege to enjoy the outdoors," said Aaron Kuehl, Director of Conservation for Illinois PF/QF, "All told, we're talking about over $25 million that desperately needs to go to the conservation of this state's natural resources."
"The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has drafted legislation that would return the funding to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources for their intended purposes and is expected to introduce it on January 12," Kuehl added, "But the legislation will only pass with an immense public outcry of support."
Illinois is home to 45 PF chapters. Those chapters have spent more than $9.3 million to complete over 27,900 habitat projects since the first Illinois PF chapter was formed in 1985. Those projects have benefited more than 261,000 acres for wildlife. There are also 17 QF chapters in Illinois.
Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever are non-profit conservation organizations dedicated to the protection and enhancement of pheasant, quail, and other wildlife populations in North America through habitat improvement, land management, public awareness, and education. PF/QF has more than 127,000 members in 700 local chapters across the continent.