Do you know why there are so many single-parent families in Illinois? Not enough fishing!
Believe it or not, that’s part of the rationale behind the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ Urban Fishing Program. According to the program’s website, “much of Illinois has been transformed from a quiet rural setting into an urban sprawl,” and “areas that were once pristine countryside are now filled with houses, super malls, and fast food restaurants.” This landscape transformation was accompanied by “changes in attitude, values and priorities” which “have resulted in more single-parent families.” The solution to the “less desirable influences” of urban sprawl is clear to the Department of Natural Resources—more urban fishing.
The Illinois Urban Fishing Program was created “in Chicago in 1985 to teach individuals of all ages to fish, to provide better local fishing opportunities, and to give participants an understanding of and a greater appreciation for natural resources.” The program provides free summer fishing clinics at stocked ponds and other fishing outreach events. Although the program started in Chicago, it now provides free fishing clinics throughout the state—from Ullin (pop. 6885) in southern Illinois to Belvidere (pop. 26,4066) in northern Illinois.
Funding for the Urban Fishing Program comes from the Wildlife and Fish Fund, and in 1994, funding for the program was supplemented by a fishing license fee increase. The expenditures for the Urban Fishing Program have increased 28.8 percent from fiscal year 2006 to 2010. But the revenues from hunting and fishing license/permit fees have decreased 6.8 percent between 2006 and 2009. The General Assembly recently increased the program’s budget by more than $75,000 for fiscal year 2011, even as the state is experiencing a massive budget deficit. While the program may have good intentions, teaching fishing skills is not a core government service. The Solution
The state government has racked up $4.7 billion in unpaid bills to schools, hospitals, and other critical services and has no plan for how to pay the $4 billion pension payment this year. State government should prioritize funding on core government services and end the Urban Fishing Program.
Why This Works
There are higher priorities for state money than a fishing program meant to counteract the ills of urban living. Ending state support for a low-priority program does not necessarily mean the underlying activities will cease to exist. According to the Urban Fishing Program website, “volunteers and volunteer organizations have become more involved to both conduct and to assist with programs” and have held numerous “volunteer fishing clinics.” This demonstrates that there are individuals and non-profits willing to address the demand for this type of social good.
Many of the taxpayer subsidies for smaller programs like the Urban Fishing Program may seem like a drop in the bucket, but when the state is facing a massive budget shortfall and pensions are woefully underfunded, programs of all sizes need to be re-evaluated.