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DNR revamps courtesy permit system

December 01, 2007 at 08:54 AM

Fewer hunters taking to the woods this fall did so by bypassing the usual lottery process for acquiring a permit.

That’s because the Illinois Department of Natural Resources says it has reworked its system of issuing “courtesy” deer- and turkey-hunting permits, approving fewer than 100 in the past year.

DNR was criticized last spring when state Auditor General William Holland’s office highlighted the agency’s issuing of 1,250 courtesy deer- and turkey-hunting permits over a two-year period. The audit said paperwork and permit applications often were incomplete, and fees were not always paid.

Illinois hunters — including those not always successful in drawing a permit during the lottery process — complained bitterly about the appearance of favoritism to the well-connected.

“I know (the audit findings were) very disturbing to our membership,” says Bob Becker, president of the Illinois Federation for Outdoor Resources, a sportsmen’s advocacy group. “It just shouldn’t have been happening.

“I’m glad they were called to task on it, and I’m glad to hear they are taking corrective action.”

Among those for whom administrative approvals were issued included Illinois Conservation Foundation donors, professional athletes, judges and politicians, according to the audit.

The two years covered by the audit ended June 30, 2006.

The Illinois Wildlife Code allows the DNR director to issue courtesy non-resident hunting permits to conservation officials from states that are working in cooperation with Illinois. It also grants leeway for hunting permits to be given to government officials, dignitaries and others who are guests of the governor or DNR director.

“The auditor general basically said in the audit that we have to have a better reporting process for issuing those permits,” says DNR spokesman Chris McCloud. “So we revamped the form that is supposed to be filled out, and also put some more checks and balances in there so you couldn’t just give a person or group of people a permit without oversight.”

As part of its response, the agency developed new forms and asked an administrator to review all applications.

Although permits can be issued at the discretion of the DNR director, the agency’s chief of administration, John Pohlman, must sign off on permit requests to help ensure the paperwork is done correctly.

Auditors noted that paperwork was incomplete for 220 of 240 approvals; permit applications were incomplete for 103 requests; and permit fees were not charged for 53 of the 240 requests.

“This is all part of a new procedure, and part of it is being sure that the documentation is complete,” McCloud says.

New paperwork includes a space to mark whether or not a fee is required or if the permit is provided free of charge.

Courtesy permits are supposed to be available for returning soldiers who may have been away during the normal permit application period, private landowners wanting to hunt on their own land and visiting media hoping to report on hunting in a particular region of the state.

“(DNR acting director) Sam Flood has been pretty diligent to be sure only people who really need the permits are getting them,” McCloud says.

He says some courtesy permits were issued to correct mistakes, for instance if a hunter received a permit for the wrong county or season.

In the case of Chicago White Sox player Jim Thome, McCloud says he signed memorabilia for a celebrity hunt, helping raise money for the Illinois Conservation Foundation.

“That’s a big fundraiser for the Conservation Foundation,” McCloud says. “So in those particular instances, the permit is a ‘thanks for helping us out and raising a lot of money.’”

But because the paperwork was incomplete, the auditor general couldn’t tell if the reasons were valid, he says. “It was a matter of record-keeping.”

McCloud says Flood was not at the helm of DNR during most of the time period covered by the audit. Flood took over at the beginning of 2006, after Joel Brunsvold retired.

The agency maintains that the director has the discretion to issue courtesy permits.

“It is our opinion,” McCloud says, “that the director has the authority to do that.”

Becker says the process for obtaining permits should be the same for everyone.

“There were a lot of disturbing names on that list when it was published,” he says. “There were names that got four, five or six permits. Their names appeared several times, and that doesn’t appear kosher.

“We all should have to go through the process, and everyone should have the same equal opportunity to get those permits.”

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was published Dec. 1, 2007 in The State Journal-Register.

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

Now I see why us paying Illinois hunters dont get lottery permits….... We arent noble enough or have enough clout!!!!!! Dnr needs to take care of the true hunters and forget the so called special people….

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 12/03 at 09:43 AM

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