ODNR Cuts Could Lead To Layoffs

CLEVELAND (AP) - The Ohio Department of Natural Resources may have to lay off workers, depending on the size of its budget cut, which could be up to 15 percent.

Director Sam Speck said he doesn't know the exact size of the cut for the 12 months beginning July 1 but expects to find out soon.

"We're not going to close down the parks," he said Tuesday. "I don't know if layoffs will happen or not."

The cuts are part of the state's struggle to eliminate its projected $1.75 billion budget deficit.

ODNR has 1,900 employees and a budget of $250 million for the fiscal year ending June 30.

It owns or manages more than 500,000 acres of land, including 73 state parks, 20 state forests, 121 nature preserves and 78 state wildlife areas. It also has jurisdiction over more than 100,000 acres of inland waters and the state's portion of Lake Erie and the Ohio River.

The agency will have to rethink operations and reorganize, Speck said. It must eliminate tasks it does not need to do and depend more on its 5,000 volunteers, he said.

It also will work on strengthening partnerships with other private and public groups, such as the Nature Conservancy and the Civilian Conservation Corps, and look into ways to raise money.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)