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Conservation Congress concludes

October 25, 2009 at 06:36 PM


Marc Miller closed the first Conservation Congress in six years by leaving the door open.

“This is just the beginning of a very long conversation,” said Miller, director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

Miller bid farewell Sunday afternoon to 140 representatives of the agency’s constituent groups at the end a day and a half of discussion, debate and brainstorming about ways DNR can tackle challenges like reduced state funding, public access for recreation and youth recruitment.

Conservation Congress has been on hiatus for six years during the administration of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

On nearly everyone’s priority list is securing a predictable funding source for DNR. Miller has said often that the agency’s share of the state’s general tax revenue dropped by about half — from about $100 million to about $50 million — in the previous 10 years.

Aaron Kuehl, conservation director for Illinois Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever said the concept of more predictable funding – such as a dedicating sliver of the state sales tax - must be promoted.

“In conservation circles we know,” he said. “The legislators know, but the general public doesn’t.

“There are short-term fixes in the works (such as fee increases), but we need some longer term fixes, too,” Kuehl said.

“People really do need to speak out,” said Beth White, of the Trust for Public Land. “We have to show conservation is economically just as important as jobs, schools and roads. It’s part of the system.”

Limiting liability of landowners that allow outdoors recreation, including hunting, fishing, birding, hiking and other forms also resonated with participants.

A law was on the books up until 2005 that addressed the issue, but some didn’t feel it was adequate to protect landowners in all circumstances.

Addressing the issue of liability is key if private landowners are to be approached about allowing some forms of public recreation on their property.

Lenore Beyer-Clow, policy director of Openlands in Chicago, said negotiations are ongoing with the Illinois Trail Lawyers Association to come to agreement to bring a finished piece of legislation to the spring session that is agreed upon by all parties.

White said DNR has to partner with constituent groups and other state agencies to get things done.

“Government cannot do it all alone,” she said. “The state needs to figure out how to create all of these public and private partnerships.”

She said bringing agencies like agriculture, environmental protection, public health, transportation and others together with DNR is vital because all segments rely upon one another.

Miller said the newly reconstituted Conservation Congress surpassed all expectations.

“We are thrilled,” he said.

Before participants headed for home, he told them that reinstating the constituent body was one of the top items on his to-do list after taking over the directorship.

“We are listening, and we want you to know that,” he said. “There will be more Conservation Congresses in the future. This work is very important.”

Your CommentsComments :: Terms :: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Captain, what org are you speaking for?

Who is the “we”?

Jodie Dodds
Vice President Illinois Bowhunters Society

Posted by archernut_ibs on 10/25 at 09:49 PM

Ok clarify what Quinn has done with anyone in mind or period for that matter. Don’t say re open parks lol that was done due to impending federal fines, not us. Saying what I want to hear and doing nothing is not a guy I want running things.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 10/26 at 01:24 AM

All the same to you Captain Bill, but no thanks to the “Conservation Illinois Conservation Congress, but like a lot of Illinois sportsmen and sportswomen that read this column, I am an Illinois voter, and I intend to send my message to Springfield by working to see that every incumbent in public office gets voted out of office.  This State and Country needs all new leadership from the people who serve on the school boards all the way to the Presidency. It’s about time some of these politicians actually were held to their campaign promises and learned what a balanced budget was.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 10/26 at 08:30 AM

Big D hit the nail on the head.  If I see the word “Incumbent” in parentheses by your name on the ballot, then I’m not punching the hole by your name on the ballot!!!

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 10/26 at 09:19 AM

Ok again I’ll ask what Quinn has done so far, records speak for themselves and the only thing I can find is a bill that sweaped funds across the board again this year. See thats the thing he is promising us the world, but has done nothing to back it up.
Action talks Bull S@@t walks,might want to let everyone in Springfield in on that since you seem to think your on the inside after sitting in on a public meeting
Right now liability laws leave the farmer open only if 1. They charge for use of the land
2. The land is being used for a non hunting activity.
So this change does nothing to affect hunter access.
Money to manage parks hmm a lot of these state parks have lodges leased by a private individual, where is the money from these leases going? The DNR is not paying a dime to keep these lodges open so its not affecting that.
Park user fees are just anouther way to kick Illinois residents dealing with a 10.5 percent unemployment rate in the teeth, our parks and this is straight from the comptroler office have more revenue than expendatures.
Now here is a statement, well a deffinition actualy for ya gullible = Easily deceived or duped. Oh and change the we to I please, I’m a tax payer and I don’t want to pay at a State Park
I just can’t believe anyone can think these fee increases are going to do what they are promising.
The State is broke because the idiots are not doing their job and yes doing nothing is just as bad.
I’m with BigD, not one of them has my vote, I don’t care how convincing a salseman they are.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 10/26 at 10:55 AM

Come on Big D
Saying silly things like “This State and Country needs all new leadership from the people who serve on the school boards all the way to the Presidency.” is way over the top.
What is we also started grouping other people together & saying more silly things like ‘every single outfitter in IL needs to be run out of business & shipped to Cuba’

There are good & bad bananas in every bunch. You just have to be able to tell the difference.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 10/26 at 11:48 AM

How about we just change the for the farmers etc, and KEEP government OUT of the parks and management.
We cannot afford the state to be involved in any management etc. Paying state employees and their bloated pensions is killing us, there is NO way we can afford to bring them along.

Imagine more taxes and more fees. Why can we not allow non for profits to manage the state parks.oh ya, that union of state employees…...

hate to be the “nay sayer”, I am all for more hunting and conservations areas, but IL government cannot and will not be part of a successful program.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 10/26 at 12:55 PM

Captain Bill - time to put your glass of “Kool-aid” down.  I agree, times are tough now, but they weren’t during many years that have led up to now.  The state has done a terrible job allocating funds; its not (or wasn’t until recently) an issue of not having enough funds.  Now, give me one instance where they have learned from it and made changes to a program?  Although I have no desire to vote for a democrat, give me another way to get it into the thick heads of our politicians.  I want to send a msg - other than voting anti-incumbent, what else will work? 
And wow - how original, let’s just impose fees and more taxes.  You need an economics lesson.  They need to now learn to do more with less, just like all of us are having to do.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 10/26 at 03:38 PM

Lynn, he may be on to something ever look at what some of the school admins make? Should they make more than the US president? Maybe we should go back and look at all the leadership practice.
So is Quinn the only pro gun canidate running? Wait is he even pro gun? I don’t think his stance as ever truly been tested and if we go off the past he is not going to say until he is reelected.Didn’t know Chicago Democrats are pro gun anything.
Jeff lets keep this in perspective, the state is in this mess not because of the economy, but due to poor or lack of management of past revenue. This has been a problem festering for a long time and instead of learning they still are sweeping funds, and taking money out of pensions, then coming to us and crying about being broke, of course they are look how lucrative it is for the state to be broke. See its amazing that only a few will call them on it even though facts have been put in plain sight and easily verifiable. The parks are not broke never have been, they were reopened due to impending fines from the feds, not concern for us.
I know revenue needs to be generated, just not these fees, they will do more harm than good. Just wait till they come crying about fewer sales and needing more youth and adult involvement.
Too everyone thinking fee increases are the answer,I’ll put a good word in to Santa for ya.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 10/26 at 03:38 PM

Sure it is Jeff I’ll concede that point, but inspite of this its bussines as usual in the State,I once heard the deffinition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result. Yeah captain one adult 3 youths you do the math, its going to be cheaper in the long run even if I eat the 225 permit.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 10/26 at 04:20 PM

That is considering all the fee increases get through the general assembly.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 10/26 at 04:21 PM

That may be but since housing prices and interest rates are low should every one go buy a new home?
See when you are in debt you can’t spend your way out of debt.
Lol the parks have more revenue than expenses at least that"s what the comptroller says, so why close them, not to mention the cost associated with closing them and I’m sure the ones leasing the lodges at Rend lake, Starved rock, IL Beach ect probably have some say on these parks closing since they all have leases with the State.
Great I get that new people will pay, but still its a drop in the bucket and I still say fees will end up being a deciding factor for residents using the parks, which is why I say they will end up doing more harm than good over all.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 10/26 at 04:54 PM

Well considering Quinn wants a 50% increase in both personal and corporate income tax, he doesn’t deserve anyone’s vote on that fact alone. Great solution to raise taxes in a bad economy, even better solution to kill the goose that lays the golden egg. If he shows such inept leadership with the state’s budget and economy, how will anything ever get accomplished at the DNR?

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 10/26 at 05:18 PM

Ill have to agree with BigD. We need new government.  There isn’t one damn thing that Quinn and Miller have done to make me want to put my trust in them.  First off, what is Quinn’s stand on gun ownership?  I suspect its the same as every other democrat that has come out of Chicago.  They spoke with deer hunters months ago.  What changes were made?  The IDNR had their mind set before that meeting.  To think that the Conservation Congress is going to change things is like thinking the sky is green.  Its all a ploy to passify us before election time.  One thing Blago was right about was Quinn’s plans to raise taxes.  Hey Governor Quinn the enconomy is in a horrific state and you want to take more money from us?  Lets start with this.  How about a pay cut for all elected officials in this state?  Not gonna happen.  Just like there isn’t anything gonna happen with the rebirth of the Conservation Congress.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 10/26 at 07:42 PM

If outfitter’s are the main concern voiced to IDNR management then why haven’t they address this problem. If the politicians of this state are a main reason for our problems, then remember that democrats have controlled nearly every office and all committees in this state for the past 6 yrs. If you ever wonder how we got in this mess with access to land, then in my opinion send a thank you to Brent Manning and the Farm Bureau for pushing access Illinois to the rest of the world. This was the fuel that fed the outfitters and created the cash cow that bound landowners to them. I wonder how much of this money goes to IDNR? I would like to bring up one more item, why does the trial lawyer association dictate what goes into the liability regulation? Are the lawyers employed by the IDNR working on this or have the politicians decided to defer to the trial lawyers, and every one knows they will have no other agenda but the publics. Thanks for the privilege of posting my thoughts on this forum.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 10/26 at 07:57 PM

Charging user fees for the parks are about as much sense as the Post Office raising the price of stamps to cover loss of people using the mail and moving to online transactions; it just pushes the users of your services elsewhere even more.  Raising user fees and taxes are just the results of leaders not wanting to lead and make the tough decisions.  In business, the company cuts costs and improves effiency when times are tough or profit margins shrink. In this case, it is the leaders in gov’t not wanting to tip the apple cart and pissing off all those who were able to convince past administrations to reallocate the monies in the DNR to other pet projects.  Real leadership would be moving the funds back to the DNR; but that would take politicians to “grow a pair”. 
And Capt “Koolaid”.  I got involved years back when the DNR was in talks for creating the “5-county zone” where you couldn’t shoot does during the first month of the season in Champaign county (one of the 5 counties).  I went to the public meetings and it was obvious that the DNR (Paul Shelton) had his mind made up and the sessions were only to pacify the crowd so we could think we had the chance to provide input. 

Again - proof is in the pudding.  The DNR and gov’t need to show us they are willing to change before I start drinking the Koolaid.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 10/26 at 09:11 PM

Another great debate forum topic…thanks Jeff Lampe for providing such a great place to air out differences of opinion.

Lynn,it is not ” way over the top” to state that this State and Country needs all new leadership from the people who serve on the school boards all the way to the Presidency.  Rather, I would say it is a statement of fact.  Check out your property tax bill you got recently.  About 50% of your local property taxes goes to support the public school system, the largest single employer in the State of Illinois.  Wow, what a great job they are doing for our children and grandchildren.  If we are really lucky, some will graduate and be able to read and write.  One question, why do charter schools and home schooled kids do so much better on college entry exams and standardized accademic placement tests than public school students?  Were you aware that the State of Illinois has a law that the State Legislature is required to balance the budget every year before they are allowed to spend any money that fiscal year.  Yet the State of Illinois is billions of dollars in debt.  So much so that they can’t pay State vendors, fully fund State pension systems, afford to keep all State run facilities open, and fully fund the Federal mandates requirements of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.  And you still think that we don’t need new leadership from the lowest politically elected job to the highest in the Country?  The real question that needs to be answered is:  Who will run for public office and have the guts to vote against over spending, be able to cut out special interest groups pet projects, and put public interest first, setting their personal interests aside.  Until this country is righted, and a lot of excess baggage politicians are dumped overboard, I do not believe that even Captain Keim and his politically connected special interest groups making up the Illinois Conservation Congress will be able to run this ship of State.  And for your information, the IDNR was headed downhill a long time before outfitters came on the Illinois scene.  Who better to know than someone who worked in both arenas.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 10/26 at 09:42 PM

My concern is with who is in whom’s pocket in this situation.  I have heard that Farm Bureau (of which I am a member as I am a farm owner in IL) and IL GOP are lining up their sights on IL DNR fee increase (which is sorely needed as it would allow for increasing the number of foresters, biologists, etc. without adding any top-heavy stuff to IL DNR).  Just so I am not misunderstood, a fee increase is not a tax, most states are increasing fees right now across the board for everything from boat licenses to hunting licenses to make up for lost revenue related to PR funding and license receipts.  I have even heard rumblings that one IL GOP member is trying to use the fee increase to score cheap political points, rather than do the right thing for DNR and the states natural resources.  So, I will be very interested to see how the various congressmen/women in IL address the current IL DNR issues and how they vote on the issue of keeping IL DNR funded at a level appropriate to their responsibilities.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 10/27 at 09:26 AM

I am impressed. This is one of the most civil discussions we’ve had in a long time. Good points made by many and not too much name-calling.

Question: What about charging a park user fee for those who do not purchase hunting or fishing licenses? Enforcement would be simple: you buy a hunting or fishing license and the system prints out a piece of paper/peel off sticker you can place in your vehicle in lieu of the park-user fee decal (or whatever they might issue). This way we will be raising money from a new revenue source instead of merely tapping the same hunters and anglers who always end up paying for conservation.

Posted by Jeff Lampe on 10/27 at 10:12 AM

So are you saying only charge the park user fee to non hunter/anglers?

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 10/27 at 10:29 AM

Yes. We need some creative way to generate revenue from people who use parks but do not currently bear as much of the burden for upkeep. And I would keep hunting/fishing licenses cheaper than the parking fee. This would encourage people to buy more hunting and fishing licenses. Who knows, once they have a license in hand they might even fish or hunt. So we could accomplish several goals at once.

Posted by Jeff Lampe on 10/27 at 10:31 AM

Not a bad thought, nice to see an idea taking some of the burden off our backs and increase participation.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 10/27 at 10:53 AM

Cumberland landowner where is your proof that the IL GOP wants fee increases?? And you do realize they are in the minority in all 3 branches of IL government?

If fees are not charged to mountain bikers or equestrian users, than there would be a route to access additional revenue.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 10/27 at 11:47 AM

Captian Klein,

have you not heard about the ballooning state pension fund….........there is NO way for us to meet those payments with todays dollars, or next years for that matter. We CANNOT afford state employees anymore to part of our park least as we know it today. NON for profits can would step given the opportunity at a much lower and sustainable cost.
IL is in for some tuff times and believe me, they are ahead of us, not behind us. Alot of decisions will be made and raising taxes to pay for parks will not be part of the end list.
So lets get real and look a successful without public/state employees.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 10/27 at 12:25 PM

Here are my biggest issue with fee increases as a whole, although I do like the idea of your hunting and fishing license being your park pass.

1. The State has yet to prove they will leave all the money in the funds to be used. This year alone one million was swept from the land aquisition fund, not to mention other funds from other agency swept.

2.The DNR is not using the money in certain funds, seems to me if you wanted to convince residents to pay more why not start by actually using funds you have like money in the habitat fund or pheasant fund, both of these have a positive balance.

3. I need to do more looking into this but speaking of those two funds, which are funded from habitat stamps sales the numbers just don’t seem to add up. A hunting license is 7 bucks and the stamps are 5 so it seems odd that revenue from hunting licenses is 11 million yet at first look neither the habitat fund or pheasant fund come close to 1 million. How this can be, since every license sold to anyone 16 or older should have a stamp,just seems like there should be more there. I need to research this some more unless anyone on here happens to know.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 10/27 at 02:17 PM

Hey cougs-
I’m just curious.
Did you attend the program?
You have some really strong convictions.
Just wondering if you were able to put them to good use.

Posted by Mike Clifford on 10/27 at 05:16 PM

Cougs, habitat stamp money goes into a lot of different funds…
Pheasant Fund - 30%.  Half of that money gets used by the state (for pheasant conservation) and half of it goes to non-profits for pheasant conservation.
Furbearer Fund - 6%.  10% for department projects, 45% for non-profit projects, and 45% for trapping education.
Habitat Fund - 64%.  Can’t remember the breakdowns, but used for non-profit grants (25%?), private grants (25%?), and land aquisitions (50%?).  Now, not all of the land aquisition money gets used every year, because there’s jut not enough there to buy land every single year.  The comittee has target lands that they intend to buy either when it becomes available, or when the funds become available.
In addition, the Habitat Endownment Fund, by law, must be maintained at million, and the interest is used to operate on.
I just wanted to point out all the different directions the habitat stamp money goes since it replaced the pheasant and furbearers stamp.

Posted by KC-IBS on 10/27 at 09:52 PM

Edit… the endowment is maintained at $10 million.

Posted by KC-IBS on 10/27 at 09:53 PM

Thanks for the info I knew the money got split into different directions, just takes some research to find out where and I just found the endowment act and now have a little clearer picture.
I can understand the money is not there every year to make new purchases, but just looking at todays balance of both fund0391 with over 3 million and then looking at the trust balance “fund 0390” with over 11 million.
I think we could see something good for our money, but when I look at what the DNR budget this year for expenditures it seems they are on track for last year of maybe 1 million being spent again this year. They want to change the DNR image then they need to let people know what they are doing and what they could be doing. 
No Mike was not able to make this one due to family being in town from out of state, but honestly these recomendations were on the DNR website before the congress. Would me going there with my convictions have changed any of these? I have full intentions of attending at least one future meeting, but I will be honest and say I think that the only message that will be listened to at this point is the one voters send next election.
The policy makers need to wake up and realize everyone is tired of doing things the same way. They are the ones that decide who gets what funding, they decide which funds get swept.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 10/28 at 10:01 AM

People shouldn’t be hard on the Captain, he is actually doing something he believes in, I commend him on that- He feels something needs to be done and he is putting it into action.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 10/28 at 10:08 AM

I have done some mild research on Bill Brady for Governor. I only know the basic’s on this man, anybody done more in depth research on him and what he could do for conservation. I know he is for concealed carry

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 10/28 at 10:19 AM

For all you guys that want to vote in every incumbant, make sure you change the retirement benefits packages for politicians FIRST!!! or you’ll just end up bloating the hand-out retirement roster for feeble minded politicians. Have you already forgotten Granberg’s sweet retirement deal for a couple of weeks work? Now going after the politiciancs on the committee that approved that sweet retirement deal sounds like a worthwhile cause…....

Posted by Henry Holt on 10/28 at 10:31 AM

Keep in mind here that fee increases haven’t kept up with inflation, nowhere near it, so it’s arguable from an economic standpoint that the real money coming into the DNR from licenses and tags has decreased over the years. I agree with Jeff on expanding user fees for the free loaders. If you have a hunting/fishing license then fine, if not, ante up. Now someone hurry up and pass me a glass of koolaid…....

Posted by Henry Holt on 10/28 at 10:41 AM

Bill brady has my vote for governor. I have met him a few times and he is a strait shooter. He doesnt really have ties to the windy city either.  It would be nice to him elected and reign in the spending spree that the representatives and state senators have been on

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 10/28 at 11:52 AM

Hey Henry you got me looking and I just found an interesting article about pensions.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 10/28 at 01:56 PM

No ties to the Windy City. Is that good or bad? LOL

Quinn and Miller have been given only half a chance.
I’d like to see their plans for our resources evolve entirely before judging on a finished product.
The meeting was about TRUST as much as anything, and these guys are busting their tails to re-establish your trust.
They deserve the chance to do that.
Nobody else has ever cared if we trust them one way or another.

Posted by Mike Clifford on 10/28 at 07:59 PM

What are they really doing to bolster our trust? I see money that could be used sitting, I see funds getting swept that should be left in place. The State continues to borrow money with interest payments alone in the billions how are the resources going to catch up with spending at this rate.
The fact is these fee increases are all ready spent outside of the DNR.I have yet to see any recomendation for fund protection, besides on here. 
I’m not saying these guys are the cause of all this and I know at least in Millers case most of this is beyond his control.
I am saying we can take into consideration what we have seen so far and make an educated guess as whats to come and I say this about anyone up for re election.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 10/29 at 12:26 AM

Lots of you are complaining about the funds that have been swept from IDNR, during the past 6-7 years.  There were numerous articles by Lampe and other outdoor writers informing us that it was being done.  How many of you called (or better yet, visited)your STATE representative and STATE senator to express your opposition to the fund sweeps?  I know Jeff posted the link to the legislators in several articles.  If all you did was pop off on sites like this, you are part of the problem.  A state senator or representative won’t buck their leadership (or the guv of their party) unless they KNOW their constitutents are VERY MUCH OPPOSED to a piece of legislation…aka: it might cost them the election.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 10/29 at 11:14 AM

Never underestimate who reads these forums is the first thing I have to say to that and yes I have let my view be known thank you.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 10/29 at 10:28 PM

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