Protecting The Environment

Long before the “Green” movement became popular, Jim Edgar laid the groundwork for today’s environmental sustainability measures being championed by the public and private sector. An avid hiker, bicyclist and horseback rider, Jim Edgar relished his role a chief steward for Illinois’ vast natural resources. Under his leadership, Illinois became a national trendsetter in solving environmental problems at less cost. With state support, curbside recycling grew dramatically in Illinois decreasing the amount of waste going into Illinois landfills. Edgar launched the Cash for Clunkers program which paid owners of old, high polluting cars to get them off the road. And he launched the Conservation Congress to protect Illinois’ natural resources and develop outdoor recreation activities. As a result more natural area land was protected than in any other administration in Illinois. Jim Edgar was also a national advocate for ethanol to make it marketable and mainstream. As chair of a 19 state coalition Edgar rallied support for ethanol that led President Bush to approve ethanol blended gasoline for cities required to burn cleaner auto fuels under the Clean Air Act. Later Edgar convinced the Clinton Administration to pass a 1998 tax break on ethanol, shaving 5.4 cents off each gallon to make it competitive with unblended gasoline in the marketplace.

“I can think of few things more important than providing our children with an environment better than the one we inherited from our parents and grandparents”– Jim Edgar

Edgar saw to it that more natural land was protected than during any other administration in Illinois history. Frequent companions of the Governor as he enjoyed the state’s varied natural resources were his dogs Daisy and Emy.

Prior to the arrival of European settlers, the land that now comprises Illinois was part of a lush landscape of prairie grasses stretching from Indiana to the Rocky Mountains. John Deere’s invention of the steel plow in the early 1800s opened up these prairies and transformed them into farmlands.

In the final decade of the 1900s, Edgar meant to reclaim some of that prairie. Large parcels of virgin prairie land became available and the Governor was there to preserve them for conservation and recreation areas.

In a move described as the equivalent of creating a Yellowstone or Yosemite for the Chicago area, Edgar and the state’s congressional delegation in 1996 succeeded in converting 19,000 acres of the former Joliet Army Ammunition Plant, which closed in the 1970s after 50 years of operation, into the nation’s first federally protected tallgrass prairie and recreation area. The Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, just 40 miles south of Chicago, was the largest remaining undeveloped tract in the state. Today it is a paradise for wildlife and many of the state’s native grasses and flowers. Attached to the site is a new 1,000-acre cemetery for the nation’s veterans plus 3,000 acres for economic use.

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“To give credit for bringing home this load of delicious bacon, no one has been more active in pushing for the arsenal both out front and behind the scenes than [DNR Director Brent] Manning and Gov. Jim Edgar,” said the Chicago Tribune in 1996. “They were committed to win this land grab for Illinois long before almost anyone in Washington or the private development sector knew what was up.”

Another former military site became available when the U.S. Department of Defense shut down the 13,000-acre Savanna Army Depot along the Mississippi River south of Galena. The site includes sand prairies, savannas, and backwater lakes and islands that had escaped development. It is home to 28 federal or state endangered plants and animals and adjacent to the Hanover Bluffs Nature Preserve. The sand prairies are the largest remaining examples of this habitat left in Illinois and sustain many declining grassland bird species. The state worked out a partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to jointly manage the property.  

While Edgar acquired the Army sites for public recreation by encouraging federal stewardship, the Governor directed the state Department of Natural Resources to buy other properties from private owners.

One of the Governor’s first acquisitions and arguably the most significant was the 1993 purchase of Site M, 15,574 acres of upland and forest habitats in Cass County. Bought for $8.75 million from Commonwealth Edison, the tract is the single largest land purchase by the state and contains a mixture of farm fields, pastures, forests, and threatened and endangered species. It is also rich in archeological resources and rare hill prairies. The Governor allocated $22 million to develop roads, horse and hiking trails, camping facilities and a 210-acre lake.

The nine-mile Site M Governor’s Trail for horses opened to rave reviews in 1998. “There are some over- looks along this trail that are spectacular,” said William Webb, a member of the Beardstown-based Heartland Saddle Club. “It’s almost like you’re in another state.” An additional 16-mile horse trail is being developed.

Another Edgar purchase doubled the size of the Lowden-Miller State Forest in Ogle County. The site consists of 2,225 acres of land ranging from low-lying plains to 120-foot bluffs along 3.5 miles of the Rock River. The Governor also added 1,200 acres to Sangchris Lake State Park in central Illinois, almost doubling its size. He completed a 13-year effort to save Wolf Road Prairie in Cook County, the largest high quality, black soil prairie left in Illinois, and he bought more than 1,000 acres in Vermilion County along the Little Vermilion River, dedicating it in 1997 to the late state Sen. Harry “Babe” Woodyard of Chrisman.

Nearly 9,300 acres in southern Illinois were designated in 1991 by Edgar as the Cache River State Natural Area. He added 3,363 acres to the site during his administration. In 1996, this natural wonder won acclaim as a wetland of international importance. It includes ancient cypress trees, some believed to be 1,000 years old, and original bottomland hardwood including oaks, hickories and ash. Edgar broke ground there in 1998 for a $4 million state-of-the-art visitor and wetlands education center.

He made significant strides in natural resources pro- tection by adding 9,000 acres of natural preserves and

13,500 acres of land and water reserves. The state also accepted land gifts, including 1,800 acres from Peabody Coal Company, which had collaborated with Illinois to convert much of an abandoned mine at New Athens in St. Clair County into a habitat for fish and waterfowl.

The Governor sought to share his enthusiasm for bicycling and hiking with others. More than 1,300 miles of bicycle paths and pedestrian trails were added, bring- ing the total number of miles of dedicated trails to 2,400. Funding also went to the Grand Illinois Trail that will span 18 northern Illinois counties and link the shores of Lake Michigan to the banks of the Mississippi River by the year 2000. Work began on a 45-mile hiking-biking trail through scenic areas in southern Illinois from Harrisburg to Karnak, including an historic 540-foot railroad tunnel. In all, more than $2 million worth of railroad right-of-way was added to the network of trails.

Improvements also accrued to the 262 state parks and recreational areas, which host about 40 million visitors annually. New visitor and educational facilities opened at Illinois Beach State Park near Zion, at Volo Bog Natural Area near Fox Lake and at Pere Marquette State Park over-looking the Illinois River in Jersey County. Through a public-private pact, the lakefront lodge at Illinois Beach, the state’s busiest park, was renovated.

Edgar worked with county officials and conservationists to convince the federal government in 1998 to add two state highway routes to a list of only 38 nation- wide designated as national scenic byways. This distinction went to a 188-mile stretch in southern Illinois that begins at the Indiana border with Illinois 141 and meanders on several roads through the Shawnee National Forest and a 50-mile section in southwestern Illinois near the confluences of the Mississippi, Missouri and Illinois rivers that follows the Great River Road.

Edgar promised his administration would actively seek and listen to the diverse opinions of conservationists and sportsmen and women. This unprecedented effort for public participation, Edgar stressed, was not “window dressing.” In 1992, he began organizing some 400 constituency groups statewide whose priorities included natural resource conservation and outdoor recreation. They became known as the Illinois Conservation Congress and convened three times during Edgar’s administration.

Delegates to the congress prompted numerous proposals, including one that resulted in the 1995 consolidation of all the state’s conservation efforts under one agency – the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). To bring together the new agency’s offices, which were spread out in eight leased buildings, and save rental costs, Edgar broke ground in 1998 for DNR’s $30 million headquarters at the Illinois State Fairgrounds.

In 1992, he appointed 25 persons, representing farmers, conservationists, environmentalists and developers, to the Water Resources and Land Use Priorities Task Force. The group provided long-term vision on preserving and conserving natural resources without impairing economic growth. Most of the nearly 200 recommendations made by the group were implemented.

Edgar also assembled the state’s top scientific minds in 1991 to undertake the nation’s first comprehensive, science-based review of changing environmental and ecological indicators as a framework for policy, planning and programmatic direction. In response to the two-year Critical Trends Assessment Project, the state set up data collection networks utilizing satellite imagery so scientists, educators, students and trained volunteers can analyze environmental trends, thereby helping to ensure the health and well-being of ecosystems.

Notably, from the task force and Conservation Congress came a recommendation for Conservation 2000, which Edgar proposed and signed into law in 1995. It commits $100 million over six years to protect Illinois’ natural resources and to develop outdoor recreation opportunities. Also, it seeks means of conserving soil and water, testing environmental conditions with advanced technology, expanding lake management to control pollution, and reviewing and simplifying the state’s water laws.

The Conservation Congress also proposed the popular environmental license plate. State parks receive $25 from the purchase of each plate, which features the state bird the cardinal perched on winter prairie grass. In its first four years, the plate generated $5.4 million for state park maintenance and for hiring senior Illinoisans, 55 years of age and older, to assist with trail renovations and site interpretation.

Another means for funding natural resources projects the Illinois Habitat Fund was created in 1993 by the Governor. The sale of Habitat Stamps, required of most hunters 16 years of age and older, raised $7.4 million. The money seeks to protect wild pheasants and fur bearing mammals, to provide grants to conservation organizations and to purchase and protect important habitats.

Recognizing the importance of public-private partnerships, Edgar signed legislation in 1994 creating the Illinois Conservation Foundation, a not-for-profit organization to raise funds for natural resource programs. During his administration, more than $2.5 million was raised for such programs as environmental education and wildlife reintroduction. One such reintroduction, of the river otter, improved the animal’s status from endangered to threatened during Edgar’s tenure.  

To complement and stretch state resources needed for environmental efforts, the Edgar administration sought to encourage volunteers to assist with protecting natural resources.

 In 1996, the Governor announced a new program, Resource Watch, that encouraged citizens to adopt and monitor wildlife and conservation areas and to assist state conservation workers with wildlife management efforts. Members help to install waterfowl nests, to trap and relocate wild turkeys, to capture and band wood ducks, to conduct bird counts and to supervise urban fishing clinics or fishing derbies for kids. They also monitor specific natural areas and report activity that may threaten wildlife and the environment, such as open dumping, illegal timber cutting and poaching. He created Ecowatch, a program that works through educators to train students in long-term monitoring of rivers, forests and prairies. More than 1,500 students have participated in the program.

To enhance the aesthetic environment of the state’s highway system, Edgar initiated a program that led to the planting of 6,000 acres of native wildflowers and grasses at interchanges and along interstates and expressways. The natural landscaping improves the view and cuts the cost of maintaining the right-of-way. This program is in addition to nearly a million seedling and mature trees planted along highways during the Edgar years.

Edgar and Kustra discuss a restoration plan for the Illinois River watershed which includes more than half the state’s agricultural land.

The Illinois River watershed is home to more than 90 percent of the state’s residents and nearly half of the state’s agricultural land. The river handles about half the commercial traffic on the Mississippi River above St. Louis. And its many miles provide innumerable wildlife and recreational opportunities.

But over the years, commercial and industrial development and farming in the watershed have led to soil erosion an estimated 14 million tons a year more than half of which is deposited in the Illinois River. The result has been the loss of 20,000 acres of backwater lakes to sedimentation. The river channel, which is less than two feet deep along some stretches, had nearly become unnavigable.

Edgar asked Lt Gov Bob Kustra to lead the rescue mission in 1993. Kustra organized volunteers to monitor the health of the Illinois River. Then in 1996 came a team to plot strategy and to recommend how to improve the watershed.

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Kustra’s efforts formed the basis for a 15-year initiative with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Signed by Edgar and federal officials in 1998, it aims to protect, preserve and improve the 232,000 acres of environmentally sensitive land associated with the Illinois River. The $459 million plan, the largest restoration project in the country, encourages landowners to stop farming their most erodible land, provides incentives to build and restore wetlands and promotes tree and grass planting to improve the quality of water, soil and wildlife habitat.

This restoration plan includes $100 million in state funding to reduce soil erosion by 20 percent, to increase waterfowl and other shorebird populations and to encourage the proliferation of native fish and mussels. 

Seeking creative solutions to environmental problems, Edgar in 1995 piloted Clean Break. The amnesty program, which began in Rockford, allowed small businesses to comply with environmental laws without fear of fines or penalties. At left is IEPA Director Mary Gade.

The Edgar administration walked a fine line between environmental interests and economic development. The Governor understood that the way to improve Illinois as a place to do business and to raise a family meant preserving the state’s environment and fostering a better quality of life.

His agenda sought creative solutions to the environmental problems confronting businesses while controlling pollution. Clean Break, the first such program in the nation, resulted in 1994 from the Governor’s Task Force on Small Business. The Governor offered an estimated 600,000 small businesses a way to meet environmental obligations without fear of fines or other penalties.

Begun in 1995 as a pilot program in the Rockford area, Clean Break was so successful it went statewide in 1997. Pledging “cooperation rather than confrontation,” Edgar’s plan called for Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) experts to help small businesses to identify environmental requirements, to reduce potential sources of pollution and to observe environmental laws without penalties. Clean Break helped 800 businesses save nearly $3 million in potential fines, while ensuring the environment’s quality for generations to come.

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“Clean Break is helping businesses be the good citizens almost all of them want to be without destroying their bottom line,” Edgar said in his 1997 State of the State address. “We have proven we can protect and improve our environment without poisoning the economy of our state.”

The Governor went a step further. He signed legislation proposed in his 1996 State of the State address encouraging business and industry to join state regulators in developing more cost-effective ways for businesses to comply with environmental laws. A five-year program enabled IEPA to enter into voluntary environmental management agreements with businesses.

Edgar also promoted tax incentives and income tax credits for businesses cleaning up and redeveloping the environment. The target was contaminated sites known as brownfields. Despite being prime locations for business, these sites, which included thousands of abandoned gas stations, former chemical and tire warehouses, and shuttered industrial plants unfit for development, all appeared too costly to clean up because of past contamination.

What Edgar pioneered was one of the most active and successful initiatives in the nation, reducing cleanup time to less than six months and shaving costs by half. Through TACO (Tiered Approach to Corrective Action Objectives), cleanup objectives were based on the future use of the property. For example, a site to be used for industry did not need to adhere to the same standards as a site destined for a children’s playground. So successful was TACO that the federal government copied the idea.

Illinois also addressed the troublesome issue of liability for those redeveloping brownfields. A first-in-the-nation agreement with the U.S. EPA gave the state authority to determine when a site was adequately cleaned up. The federal agency agreed not to pursue additional enforcement against an owner if the state had approved the cleanup.

Leaking underground storage tanks were another headache. Totally revamping Illinois’ approach to the problem, Edgar and the legislature put in place a financing plan that allows the state to spend $258 million to clean up more than 6,000 leaking storage tanks. Funds came from an impact fee paid on petroleum products delivered to service stations.

When a decade-long stalemate over the removal of radioactive waste from a West Chicago property could not be broken, Edgar stepped in. The Governor threatened the corporate owners of the site with a new law that allowed the state to charge a $22 million annual storage fee for the thorium waste if it was not hauled away. They got the message, and in 1994 Edgar presided over a celebration marking the departure of the first trainload of contaminated material. Nearly 8 million cubic feet of the radioactive soil was shipped to a disposal facility in Utah.

In 1995, Illinois tackled volatile organic compounds, one of the primary components of ozone pollution. Under a program recognized by President Bill Clinton as a model for the nation, Illinois established air quality goals and let businesses choose the most effective, least expensive way to ensure air quality. This landmark approach saved businesses more than $160 million and led to cleaner air.

Another unique Edgar approach was Cash for Clunkers. The state bought older, pollution spewing cars for scrap beginning in 1992. The plan offered “clunker” owners double the cash they might otherwise expect from their cars. By helping get these inefficient vehicles off the road, air quality was improved and Chicago moved toward meeting federal ozone standards. An Illinois EPA study determined the program eliminated 50 tons of vehicle emissions from Chicago’s air.

Edgar also initiated the voluntary Partners in Pollution Prevention program, which works to prevent manufacture of waste and pollutants before they enter the environment. By 1998, more than 200 companies had joined with the state to stop pollution.

Improving water quality was another priority. During Edgar’s terms in office, the number of streams with “good” water ratings increased 22 percent, leaving less than 1 percent of the state’s streams with a “poor” rating.

A cornerstone of the state’s efforts was a program through which more than 140 grants totaling $208 million were channeled to communities to fund improvements to sewer and wastewater treatment facilities. In another program, Edgar provided $100 million to leverage $500 million in federal funds for low-interest loans to rebuild wastewater infrastructure to achieve compliance with environmental laws and spur economic growth.

A low-interest loan program in 1997 provided local government $42 million annually to improve the quality of the drinking water.

In 1996, Edgar made good on a campaign promise to repeal an ill-conceived and ill-advised law enacted in 1987 over Gov. James R. Thompson’s veto. It provided billions of dollars in subsidies to incinerator developers and investors. By making Illinois the only state offering subsidies of this magnitude, the state was rife for a proliferation of pollutant-emitting incinerators. The Governor supported and signed repeal legislation saving the state an estimated $2 billion.

Upon taking office, the Governor found the Illinois Pollution Control Board under attack, mostly for delays in processing environmental rules and cases. Edgar instructed the board chairman, Claire A. Manning, to streamline and professionalize operations. Manning did so. The board cut processing time in half, even though caseloads and rule-makings increased by 50 percent.

Under Edgar’s watch, vigorous enforcement of environmental laws produced almost $39 million in penalties, 515 percent more than during the previous eight years. In 1997 alone, a record 393 environmental cases were sent to prosecutors and more than $11 million in penalties assessed. Case referrals during Edgar’s administration totaled 2,500, up 88 percent from the previous eight years.

A strong supporter of NAFTA, Edgar saw to it that agricultural exports to Canada and Mexico increased by $200 million a year. Here he meets with Mexican President Ernesto Zedilio in Mexico City to discuss increased trade opportunities.

About 80 percent of Illinois’ land, or 28 million acres, is used for farming. The state ranks second in the country for corn and soybean production and fourth in hog production. It is one of the top five states in cash crop receipts and total value of farm real estate. Agricultural exports total $4 billion annually.

To say farming is big business in Illinois is an understatement.

With competition growing and federal subsidies for farmers dwindling, the worldwide sale of Illinois food and agricultural products became critical. Edgar sought new markets. He was the most outspoken governor in Washington for passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Since its approval in 1993, NAFTA has eliminated many trade barriers between the United States, Canada and Mexico and helped generate $200 million a year in state agricultural exports.

The Governor and key farm leaders visited China, Mexico, Hungary, Japan, Russia, South Korea and western Europe to maintain Illinois’ position as the third leading agricultural exporter in the United States. The Illinois Department of Agriculture opened trade offices in Belgium, Canada, Hong Kong and Mexico. These efforts helped boost agricultural exports by 25 percent during Edgar’s two terms.

Such reliance on agricultural land makes erosion and water quality top priorities in Illinois and not just for farmers.

Under the Illinois Erosion and Sediment Control Program, more than 78 percent of Illinois’ cropland reached tolerable conservation levels by 1997, compared to 59 percent in 1982. Much of that progress resulted from farmers embracing no-tillage soil conservation practices. More Illinois farmers use this technique on a higher percentage of acres than in any other state in the nation.

Conservation tillage alone is not enough, however, to achieve Illinois’ soil saving goal. Some areas require more intensive work, such as construction of terraces, grass waterways, dams or other structures to keep soil in the fields and out of waterways.

Through Conservation 2000, soil and water conservation programs help defray the cost to landowners for installing soil-saving structures, reinforcing streambanks and safeguarding the state’s agricultural potential for generations to come. Funding for agricultural resource conservation more than doubled during the Governor’s two terms in office.

With the emergence of large livestock farms, Edgar took measures to protect their surroundings. As a good first step, Edgar enacted a law requiring notice to surrounding property owners and the state Department of Agriculture before a livestock facility handling 50 or more animals could be constructed or expanded. It mandated graduated setbacks around populated areas, set design standards and required training and testing of livestock managers.

Recycled tonnage grew from 91 tons a year when Edgar took office to 3.5 million tons. More than half the state’s population participate in curbside recycling.

Illinois landfills handled less trash each year of the Edgar administration. But stricter environmental laws and sites being filled to capacity cut the number of landfills in
the state from 146 to 58.

To reduce reliance on landfills, Edgar stressed recycling. Illinois responded with a 40-fold increase in recycled tonnage, growing from just 91 tons in 1990 to nearly 3.5 million tons in 1996. Curbside recycling programs served more and more Illinoisans, jumping from about 100 programs serving 600,000 residents in 1990 to 450 programs serving 6 million in 1996.

Edgar provided more than $19 million to encourage marketing for recycled materials. Some 335 projects totaling $10 million promoted the re-use of scrapped tires. Today, shredded tires are used as playground cover and to resurface high school and college running tracks. Twenty-four million passenger tires were saved from clogging landfills or littering the landscape.

In state government, Edgar improved recycling efforts by state agencies and, by 1998, 5.5 million pounds of waste paper was diverted from landfills, up 38 percent from 1990. Recycling also captured the imagination of students at West Chicago Community High School who proposed that public elementary and secondary schools buy paper and paper products from recycled supplies. Edgar agreed and signed a law to that effect. He also provided $1.5 million in state grants for recycling at Illinois state-supported universities and community colleges and $4 million to assist solid waste research at the University of Illinois’ Urbana-Champaign and Chicago campuses.

At Ford’s Chicago plant in 1994, Edgar takes the wheel of a flexible-fuel Taurus. Illinois government maintains the largest vehicle fleet in the nation running on gasoline containing 85 percent ethanol.

Illinois is the nation’s leading ethanol-producing state. As a result, Gov. Edgar assumed a national role in promoting it as a viable fuel alternative.

“I would rather rely on Illinois farmer for my fuel than on a Middle East oil baron,” Edgar said in 1991 when the state extended a sales tax break on ethanol purchases to 1999. Seven years later, the Governor helped pass legislation to push that tax break to 2003. He noted that gasoline containing at least 10 percent ethanol helped Chicago to achieve required carbon monoxide levels and reduce smog.

When he was chairman of the 19-state Governors’ Ethanol Coalition, Edgar rallied support for ethanol. These efforts paid off when President George Bush approved ethanol-blended gasoline for half the cities required to burn cleaner auto fuels under the Clean Air Act. Later, Edgar lobbied the Clinton administration to continue ethanol support and helped to achieve a 1998 tax break on ethanol fuel, shaving 5.4 cents off each gallon, to make it competitive with unblended gasoline.

Under Edgar’s direction, the state maintained a vehicle fleet that included more than 600 cars running on a special blend of gasoline that contains 85 percent ethanol. This is the largest fleet of its kind in the nation.

Ethanol-blended fuels are a boon to Illinois business in general and to the corn industry in particular. The state produces about 1.4 billion gallons of ethanol annually, representing 600 million bushels of Illinois corn, or 17 percent of the state’s total corn production.

In response to a decline in Illinois coal production, Edgar funded the largest state-sponsored coal research program in the United States to help make coal a more competitive fuel source. He also worked to develop new markets.

The Edgar administration spared no effort to protect and improve the marketability of Illinois coal, an abundant natural resource with an estimated 181 billion tons still in the ground. This attention was necessary because the Illinois coal industry mainstay of the downstate economy since the 1880s encountered one of its most difficult periods in the 1990s.

Even though Illinois has the largest bituminous coal resources of any state, the coal’s high sulfur dioxide content led many utilities to seek other coal sources because of strict new federal Clean Air Act requirements. Coal production in Illinois dropped by about a third during Edgar’s years in office to 47 million tons, the number of operating mines decreased from 35 to 20 and the number of miners dropped by half to 5,000.

However, the situation would have been worse if not for Edgar’s strategy to bolster the coal industry by assuring users of Illinois coal that it could be a competitive fuel source, developing new markets and funding the largest state-sponsored coal research program in the United States. Under Edgar’s leadership, the state’s clean coal technology and research program benefited from increased funding, and bond authority was hiked significantly.

Violaters of environmental laws were vigorously prosecuted as fines levied during the Edgar administration increased by more than 500 percent.

Illinois has 13 nuclear power reactors at seven atomic power plants, giving it the largest concentration of nuclear power plants in the country. Protecting Illinois citizens from potential radiation became a primary concern of the Edgar administration.

In 1994, the Governor signed a law placing an Illinois Department of Nuclear Safety resident inspector in each of the state’s nuclear power plants. These state inspectors live near their assigned station and work each day at the plant. The safety checks they perform provide the state with a direct hand in protecting the public. In the event of an accident, the inspector would serve as a vital communications link. Communities near nuclear power plants receive assistance from the state for emergency planning and state grants underwrite necessary response equipment.

With the state required to find a location for disposal of its low-level radioactive waste, Edgar stepped into a siting process well underway when he took office in 1991. An independent commission ruled a proposed site near Martinsville did not meet the necessary requirements, so Edgar called for development of a new one. A new siting strategy was approved by the General Assembly in 1993 and revised in 1997 when communities requested a voice in determining whether a site would be located in their area. The Governor supported revisions requiring any site considered for the facility to have been volunteered by the landowner and the local government. No site has yet been selected, but a disposal facility is scheduled to be available in 2012.

State inspectors also regularly inspect X-ray machines at clinics, hospitals and dentist offices, screen for radon, which impacts nearly one-third of all Illinois homes, handle radioactive spills and work to protect women from excessive radiation during mammography procedures.

More free and family-oriented attractions were Edgar’s goal for the Illinois State Fair. At right, the Governor and Mrs. Edgar share a ride at the fair with their godchild, Julie Castelloe.

In 1991, Edgar directed Illinois State Fair staff, as he did throughout state government, to cut waste and inefficiency, and to do more with less. These moves gradually erased the customary deficit, which had stood at $1.7 million in 1990. Better, the fair yielded surpluses in 1997 and 1998 of $200,000. Attendance at the 10-day event averaged 725,000 during Edgar’s two terms with a peak of 826,600 in 1998.

In 1993, the state fair became more self-supporting, changing from a reliance on the state’s general fund to the use of its own generated revenues. Edgar also directed the fair to enlist corporate support. Events like the state fair’s car races were privatized, cutting waste and inefficiency and placing financial risks on the promoter rather than the fair. The fair started an aggressive corporate marketing strategy that nets hundreds of thousands of dollars yearly through such sponsors as AT&T, Ameritech, McDonald’s and Coca-Cola.

Edgar insisted the fair provide good, clean, quality entertainment and education, with more free and family-orientated attractions, and promote Illinois agriculture.

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After the 1998 state fair, a headline in Springfield’s State JournalRegister proclaimed: “Fair finally reflects Edgar’s family-oriented goals.” The newspaper said the state fair “left its ultimate imprint as a family affair, a fair filled with activities and events and a wholesome atmosphere geared toward the tastes of fairgoers of every age, and that’s what a state fair should be. This has been Gov. Jim Edgar’s goal from the time of his first state fair as governor in 1991, and this year’s fair, more than any other, fulfilled that mission.”

Edgar also initiated physical improvements in fair facilities. They began with a new two-story, air-conditioned livestock center in 1992, followed in 1994 by a new cattle barn and State Fire Museum, which was dedicated during the centennial celebration of the fairgrounds in Springfield. Several buildings were renovated, including cattle, horse, swine and sheep barns. Historic Barn 13 was saved from demolition by the Governor, renovated and re-opened in 1998. The Grandstand and campground were improved along with the Junior Livestock Building that Edgar named in 1997 for WGN’s nationally recognized agricultural reporter Orion Samuelson.

The fairgrounds’ one-mile dirt track continues to be the world’s fastest. It consistently ranks as the nation’s finest harness racing track. The pacer Cambest upheld the track’s prowess by breaking the world record in 1993 with a time of 1:46.1.

After adding a needed new paddock in 1996 to complement the track, Edgar announced plans in 1998 for new show horse and harness racing complexes on the fairgrounds.

The Governor’s Sale of Champions, an auction of the Junior Grand Champion animals, which benefits the Future Farmers of America and the 4-H Foundation as well
as bolsters the young exhibitors’ college finances, highlighted Agriculture Day. During the Edgar administration, four of five auction records were set, including the $15,100 paid in 1994 for the Junior Grand Champion barrow.

While the state fair is the fairgrounds’ longest and largest event, the fair’s facilities host more than 300 events a year, including national cattle, horse and car shows and auto, horse and motorcycle races. In 2000 and 2001, the fairgrounds will be the arena for the National High School Finals Rodeo.

At the DuQuoin State Fair in southern Illinois, Edgar also worked to improve attendance, which reached more than 400,000 in 1997. Financial progress also was made. The fair’s annual deficit fell from $654,000 in 1991 to $218,000 in 1997.

The state committed millions of dollars to promote Lincoln heritage, including planning for an Abraham Lincoln presidential library to honor the 16th president. Springfield-area Lincoln sites, such as the Old State Capitol where Lincoln gave his famous “House Divided” speech, attract tourists from around the world.

Edgar’s inherited budgetary crisis in the early 1990s had an adverse impact on state historic sites. The Illinois Historic Preservation Agency cut staff by 25 percent and various sites reduced operations or closed entirely.

Responding to this fiscal adversity, volunteers reopened some sites on a limited basis, while private contributions helped to pay staff at others.

Historic initiatives made headlines around the country, and occasionally the world, during Edgar’s tenure. Abraham Lincoln’s legal documents were cataloged by the tens of thousands, shedding light on a previously underresearched aspect of the 16th president’s life. The more than 100,000 documents from 5,000 legal cases involving Lincoln will be made available to the public on CD-ROM.

At Edgar’s urging, the General Assembly allocated $10.4 million to plan for the construction of a multi-million dollar Lincoln presidential library in Springfield. Lincoln’s Tomb, his home and the village where Lincoln operated a store are in the Springfield area and attract tourists and historians from around the world.

“Abraham Lincoln is the most studied and respected individual in United States history,” Edgar said as he commemorated the 189th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth on Feb. 12, 1998. “There are presidential libraries honoring 11 American presidents, and it is time to build a library to honor our nation’s greatest president.”

State officials predict the library and museum, which will represent a cooperative effort by city, state and federal government, as well as the private sector, will attract close to a million visitors in its first year, more than double the attendance at other presidential libraries.

Edgar announced plans in 1998 for a $1.7 million interpretive center at Lewis and Clark State Historic Site in southwestern Illinois. It will be the centerpiece of the state’s celebration in 2003 of the 200th anniversary of that famed expedition, which set out from the Illinois site. In his final budget, the Governor also set aside $800,000 for planning a new Illinois State Museum.

Upon taking office, Edgar was confronted by Native Americans concerned over the display of 900-year-old human remains at the Dickson Mounds Museum, 40 miles southwest of Peoria. Edgar closed the burial excavation exhibit in 1991 and promised a $4 million renovation, the museum’s first facelift since it was constructed in 1972. In 1994, the Governor returned to open a premier, modern exhibit tracing the once-thriving Native American culture along the Illinois River.