A bill has been introduced in Springfield that would end our independent Forest Preserve Commission in DuPage. The bill would place policy and management decisions of the DuPage County forest preserves under the control of the DuPage County Board Chairman and County Board. Please take action to stop this bill that would return Forest Preserve decisions to the bad old days before the County Board and Forest Preserve Commission were separated in 2002.
During that time, the County did a poor job of protecting our forest preserves. There is an inherent conflict of interest between County’s development and growth goals and the Forest Preserve’s Downstate Forestry Act mandate to preserve and restore land. For example, when the County Board managed the Forest Preserve Currier School was built in Blackwell Forest Preserve and Diehl Road was built directly through McDowell Forest Preserve.
Furthermore, DuPage taxpayers have cause to be concerned about how the County plans to manage the $250 million cash reserves that the Forest Preserve currently holds in escrow for the mitigation of any problems that may arise from any of the five landfills in the county. These cash reserves are not derived from tax dollars; they are saved from landfill tipping fees and produce interest income that is used to offset the district’s annual budget. It would be dangerous and irresponsible to use this money for any purpose other than landfill mitigation. In actual practice, these cash reserves save tax payer dollars and guard against future taxpayer liability in the event of a landfill problem.
We agree with the goal of saving taxpayers money. But it must be done in a way that does not compromise the independence of the Forest Preserve Commission. The forest preserves play too great a role in our quality of life in DuPage to put them at risk.