Farmers are an important part of the rural community in Illinois. Their children attend the local school. Their families work there. And federal projects have been known to impact rural communities in meaningful ways.

There is a real concern that a refuge – and the federal authority that comes with it –will negatively impact infrastructure projects and transportation on rural roads. Closing roads, temporarily or permanently, impacts the citizens who live there. It impacts the ability of emergency vehicles to travel safely and to reach rural homes. Proposed infrastructure projects near the refuge may get superseded by the federal authority given to the refuge. US Fish & Wildlife staff stationed in another town in Illinois, or in a regional office in another state, are removed from the infrastructure needs of the local communities around a refuge, and there is a real fear of those needs going unheard or ignored as decisions are made about the refuge.

In addition to those concerns, the tax base of rural communities can be severely impacted by a sudden shift to government-owned land. The decrease of taxable land, coupled with decreased land values after transforming to wildlife habitat, cause great concern for rural citizens. The ability for the federal government to defer “in lieu of” payments, or to pay a fraction of the tax costs, shifts the burden to rural citizens and can decimate school and other public service budgets.

Any loss of property tax base would be detrimental to our school system. The area included in the proposed refuge east of Momence generates $1.2 million annually in property tax revenue with nearly $800,000 of that being dedicated for the Momence School District. With our tight school budgets, any decrease in that revenue would be detrimental to our community. Therefore, I strongly oppose the proposed US Fish & Wildlife Service Refuge.

Kankakee County farmer