To the Editor:
How do we attach a fee or a price tag to the contributions to our lives offered by nature? A place to take children outside, clean air, clean water and outdoor recreation all are provided by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to all residents of Illinois. These valuable benefits come through the operation of our state park system and programs that protect our natural resources. These services are provided indirectly to everyone so it is appropriate that we all support their maintenance.
The recently passed IDNR sustainability legislation is a fee package that will provide needed revenue to a department that has been disproportionately cut over the past 10 years. Most of the fees will pay directly for the costs of their associated programs. In addition, half of the $2 fee on license plates will pay for much-needed infrastructure improvements (roads, buildings) at state parks and support the associated construction jobs.
The legislation (Public Act 097-1136) also gives IDNR the authority to charge out-of-state visitors to state parks a fee. We are lucky that our parks are accessible to everyone. We applaud the advocates and legislators who stepped up to support a department that provides value to all citizens of Illinois.
Policy director, Openlands, Woodstock