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Jeff Lampe
Jeff Lampe

Jeff Lampe has been outdoor writer at the Journal Star in Peoria for 12 duck seasons. He lives in Elmwood with his wife Monica, sons Henry, Victor and Walter, and Llewellin setter Hawkeye. A native of Buffalo, N.Y., he is an avid fan of the Bills and still has mental scars from four consecutive Super Bowl losses. Outside of hunting and fishing, Lampe's main passion in Illinois was Class A boys basketball (which sadly no longer exists). Former publisher of the Class A Weekly newsletter, Lampe is a co-author of "100 Years of Madness" and "Classical Madness," both books focusing on prep basketball in Illinois.

Illinois Outdoors


A Web log by Jeff Lampe of the Journal Star

Who will head the DNR?

January 29, 2009 at 09:13 PM

The phone rang this afternoon and there was Kurt Granberg on the other line. Willing and eager to talk.

I’ll say this for Granberg, he’s been very accessible since being named director of the Department of Natural Resources on Jan. 16.

He has returned calls, answered calls and now even placed a call. I never spoke to Sam Flood once in his four years as acting director. I’ve talked to Granberg on three separate occasions already in less than two full weeks on the job.

With good reason. By Friday morning he may no longer be running the DNR. “I may be out of a job soon,” Granberg said.

Some will say he should not be running the DNR. And the writing does seem to be on the wall for the former long-time ally of Gov. Blagojevich.

As Quinn said after Granberg’s appointment, “We have had a long line of professional politicians in the DNR and the agency needs someone with a natural resources background. Someone who understands hunting, fishing, hiking, camping birdwatching and being a good steward of natural resources.”

What surprised me was that Granberg tossed his old buddy under the bus before the Senate had even voted. Early Thursday afternoon he said Quinn will be better for conservation and the DNR than was Blagojevich. “Yes, without question,” Granberg said. “I always had a feeling Rod never really appreciated the usage of the state parks. And unfortunately I felt there was too much emphasis on Chicago.”

No argument here. But it’s still a surprise coming from Granberg, a long-time Democrat.

Some say those political ties are one reason Granberg will not be removed from his post. Some are saying Quinn has too many other issues to tackle to worry right now about Granberg. One DNR insider I know has said Quinn’s action or inaction toward the DNR director position will speak volumes about how much he will really do for the agency. I think all those points are valid.

Personally, I have no axe to grind against Granberg. From my limited contact with him (which includes a ememorable evening attempting to drink at every bar in Benton) he seems like a decent guy. In better times, he might have been OK atop the DNR. But these are not better times. Frankly, I’m not sure anybody can rescue DNR from the mess it is in. But I suspect the DNR needs a leader with a real understanding of natural resources. I’m not saying the DNR needs a biologist. But the agency does need someone who can come up with more than a golf trail as a burning passionate idea. Wouldn’t you think at some point in the past few weeks Granberg might have mentioned deer hunting or deer management, for instance?

So if not Granberg, then whom?

Illinois hunting and fishing

Many are betting on Marc Miller (pictured above), one of four senior policy advisors to Quinn. Miller is a native of Mattoon who graduated from Eastern Illinois University in 1991 with a Bachelor of Arts in political science and graduated from the University of Illinois at Springfield in 1996 with a Master of Arts in environmental administration. For some period of time he worked for the Prairie Rivers Network. Then he joined up with Quinn, for whom he has served since June of 2004.

He has worked as co-leader of Quinn’s environment team and was a point person for natural resources and water issues. He’s also been a liaison to the Illinois River Coordinating Council and an alternate delegate to the Great Lakes Commission.

He also deer hunts, duck hunts and fishes regularly. Miller is particularly passionate about stream fishing.

Illinois hunting and fishing

I have talked to Miller several times in the past few weeks. I know DNR director is a job he would like. And he might get to fulfill that wish very soon. But there are also political realities. Miller is one of four senior policy advisors for a man who is suddenly in charge of a very large, very populous state that is in disarray. The DNR is not and cannot be Quinn’s top priority. Miller may be needed elsewhere.

Frankly, if Miller doesn’t get the job I have no clue who might be in line. The important thing to me is that the position of DNR director has been elevated to a level of importance. The position of DNR director has become a real issue that will be discussed beyond just the Internet pages of Prairie State 

Anyway, it’s late. I have spent too many hours pondering this. We’ll know more in the morning. Until then, here are some soothing comments from Miller about Pat Quinn, the man in whose hands the fate of conservation in Illinois now rests.

“I think he has an appreciation and an understanding of what the (DNR) does and what natural resources and the outdoors mean to our citizens. He has been to state parks. I know that should be a no-brainer, but he goes to parks and enjoys the outdoors. And he also understands the economic spin-off of people attending parks.”

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