What are the Defense Programs?
Once an area is protected under one of the Commission's protection programs, the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission has the duty to ensure that the area is not threatened or damaged. Most often, threats to protected areas come indirectly from projects on nearby land. Like the photo, development projects often threaten to change existing environmental conditions. Examples of common threat issues include: new subdivisions, road projects, pipeline installations, and mining. Very rarely, threats are found within a protected area itself.
The Illinois Nature Preserves Commission works with units of local government, developers, and State and federal agencies to ensure that protected areas are afforded the highest level of protection available under Illinois law. Often, this means that development plans and road projects are engineered to avoid or minimize potential negative impacts to any nearby protected areas. Sometimes, it is simply a matter of restricting the timing of a construction activity to avoid disturbing the nesting success of threatened and endangered birds.
Duties Under the Illinois Natural Areas Preservation Act:
The Illinois Natural Areas Preservation Act provides that "areas dedicated as nature preserves are hereby declared to be put to their highest, best, and most important use for the public benefit...They may not be taken under power of eminent domain or by other means for any other use except another public use and except upon approval of the Commission, the Governor, and any public owner of a dedicated interest therein after a finding by the Commission of the existence of an imperative and unavoidable public necessity for such other public use." The imperative and unavoidable public necessity for another public use standard has never been met before.
The Act provides for three types of relief if a protected area is threatened or damaged:
- The Illinois Attorney General or the local State's attorney can sue to have the threat stopped or to force somebody to do something that would prevent a threat from happening.
- The Act provides for criminal penalties. Any person who violates the Act is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor. When the violation is a continuing offense, each day is considered a separate violation.
- The Act provides for civil fines up to $10,000 for each violation of the Act.
Conservation Police Officers, sheriffs and other police officers have the authority to enforce the Act and rules established under the Act. Section 17 of the Act requires each agency of the State and local government to consult with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources before authorizing, funding, or carrying out projects to determine if the project is likely to result in the destruction or adverse modification of any natural area that is registered under the Act or identified as a high quality natural area.
Related Administrative Rules
1. Title 17 Ill. Admin. Code Part 4015 entitled: Regulation of Public Use of Illinois Dedicated Nature Preserves.
2. Title 17 Ill. Admin. Code Part 4000 entitled: Rules for Management of Illinois Nature Preserves.
3. Title 17 Ill. Admin. Code Part 4005 entitled: Public Meeting on Proposed Action - Nature Preserves Commission.
4. Title 17 Ill. Admin. Code Part 4010 entitled: Register of Land and Water Reserves.
5. Title 17 Ill. Admin. Code Part 1075 entitled: Consultation Procedures for Assessing Impacts of Agency Actions on Endangered and Threatened Species and Natural Areas.