State of Illinois

Office of Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                    Wednesday, July 9, 2003             



(822 words)



It is said the bald eagle was chosen as our national symbol because during the Battle of Brandywine early in the American Revolution, the noise of fighting in the valley stirred eagles who had been nesting in the heights. Hearing the eagles circling high overhead, the rebels rallied, shouting, "They are shrieking for our freedom."

The bald eagle came to symbolize a young nation's independence and strength, and has been the central image used in the Great Seal of the United States since 1782 and state seal since Illinois was a territory in 1809.

Here in Illinois, we're fortunate to have a growing eagle population, with at least 3,100 bald eagles who winter here each year in aeries from Southern Illinois to Jo Daviess County in the far northwest corner of the state. Tens of thousands of Illinois residents and tourists are thrilled to see these magnificent birds in their natural environment, spreading their wings and "shrieking for our freedom".

In fact, eagle-watching in Illinois has become a booming source of tourism revenue for the State and small businesses. Eagles can now be spotted in at least 27 Illinois counties, including Adams, Alexander, Bond, Bureau, Calhoun, Hancock, Henderson, Jackson, Jersey, Jo Daviess, Johnson, LaSalle, Madison, Mason, Mercer, Morgan, Ogle, Pike, Putnam, Rock Island, Schuyler, St. Clair, Stephenson, Union, Whiteside, Williamson and Winnebago.

The bald eagle is a national treasure and we need to do everything possible to protect its habitat here in Illinois. Despite facing extinction only a few years ago due to pesticides, bald eagles have made a comeback, only to now confront a new predator - uncontrolled development.

That's why last week - during Independence Day weekend - I launched an "online petition drive" to protect the habitat of Illinois' 3,100 bald eagles, particularly those eagles facing a developer's bulldozer on Plum Island near Starved Rock just 85 miles from Chicago's Loop. Eagle supporters can learn more and register their opinion immediately by visiting the website at

The Plum Island controversy illustrates the threat eagles face across the nation. Plum Island is a pristine, uninhabited 52-acre island in the Illinois River where more than 80 bald eagles roost every year from October to mid-March. Eagle-watching in the area has become an annual ritual for thousands of visitors to LaSalle County.

Developers have purchased 45 acres on the island and plan to turn it into an upscale 50-condo community complete with a marina. They intend to bulldoze much of the northern part of the island, precisely where the eagle roosts are located, along with ancient Native American burial grounds. In their marketing materials, the developers promote "…the tranquility of nature" while touting nearby jet-ski rentals and their proposed marina which would accommodate 40-foot speedboats.

Bulldozers, jet-skis and 40-foot speedboats will not encourage the eagles to return in October. Thousands of people visit this scenic area each year. We owe it to future generations to keep this section of the Illinois River and its delicate ecosystem in its natural state, and not scare away the eagles.

As Lieutenant Governor, I am also Chairman of the Illinois River Coordinating Council, a unique multi-agency body that oversees programs and funding for watershed programs. The bald eagle is an inspiring symbol of our state's ecosystem and our nation's success in bringing the species back from the brink of extinction 40 years ago.

We cannot stand by idly as developers start their bulldozers.

It is vital to send a clear message to the decision-makers on this project. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, United States Army Corps of Engineers, and local county and municipal officials will not allow the developers to move forward without proper permits, but by having broad public support, these public officials will be in a stronger position to honor the eagles, honor the ancient burial grounds and honor our environment.

That's why I strongly urge everyone concerned with preserving not only the habitats of eagles, but of all threatened species in Illinois to voice their support immediately on the online petition at

I believe in petition power. Over the past three decades, I've been involved in numerous petition drives, including the successful consumer campaign which led to creation of the Citizens Utility Board (CUB). Petition drives strengthen the voice of everyday people. Participatory democracy is as American as, well, the bald eagle.

Now, by using the internet, the people of Illinois can band together to protect Illinois eagles, and put the brakes on these bulldozing developers and anyone else who threatens their habitat.

The bald eagle has been the central symbol of our freedom for nearly 225 years. Destroying their habitat to make a quick buck will harm the ecosystem, cut tourism revenue and frighten the eagles away permanently. If you share my belief that we must vigorously protect Illinois eagles, please voice your support on





Pat Quinn

Illinois Lieutenant Governor