SPRINGFIELD - Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn and two carnivorous raptors – a bald eagle and a female red- tailed hawk – demonstrated on behalf of protecting eagle habitats and promoting nature-based tourism in Illinois.
Quinn was joined by “Coates,” a male bald eagle from the Illinois Raptor Center (IRC) in Decatur and “Solo,” a female red-tailed hawk originally from the Taylorville area.
“As we look at a bald eagle such as Coates, we’re reminded why the eagle is the symbol of our nation,” said Quinn, who serves as Chairman of the Illinois River Coordinating Council. “The bald eagle stands for independence, strength and grace, and it is our responsibility to protect this magnificent species’ habitat here in Illinois.”
Quinn is a long-time advocate of protecting wildlife habitats, and just last year garnered over 20,000 signatures from across the state through an online petition in support of saving Plum Island – a 52- acre island that is home to many bald eagles. Quinn urged everyone concerned with preserving not only the habitats of eagles, but of all threatened species in Illinois to voice their support immediately on his Web site, SaveOurEagles.org.
The voices of Illinois were heard, and the plan by an out-of-town developer to turn Plum Island into a condominium village and marina was stopped. The victory was due to the relentless efforts of dozens of groups and agencies, and thousands of people who signed petitions, wrote letters and kept the pressure on. It was a victory for conservation, eagles and eagle-watchers and grassroots action.
Despite facing extinction only a few years ago, bald eagles can now be spotted in dozens of sites across Illinois and eagle-watching has become a booming source of tourism dollars. In LaSalle County alone, eagle-watching generates $1.8 million, mostly during January “Starved Rock Bald Eagle Days.” Illinois is now the winter home to more bald eagles than any state in the continental United States, with eagles now being spotted in 27 counties across the state.
The Lieutenant Governor’s State Fair tent also offered an expansive display of information regarding his office programs and initiatives including Clean water Illinois, Operation Home Front, Illinois Main Street, and The Governor’s Rural Affair’s Council (GRAC).