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Illinois hunting and fishing

With new DNR director Marc Miller (left) looking on, Gov. Pat Quinn signs legislation restoring $9 million to funds established by the sale of hunting and fishing licenses. Money had been taken from those funds last year, jeopardizing $16 million in federal funding this year.

Why trust new DNR director?

February 08, 2009 at 01:21 AM

More about Miller

Click here to read Dale Bowman’s column about Marc Miller in the Chicago Sun-Times.

Here’s a quick question-and-answer session with Miller, moments after he was named director of the Department of Natural Resources.

Are any deputy directors or other people in DNR going to be dismissed?
“We’re going to have to understand where we stand before we start looking at personnel issues. Reviewing positions as well as the finances will be the first order of business. The emphasis will be on finances. We’ve got to figure out where we’re at.”

What are some of the first things you plan to do?
“Reaching out to constituent groups and working with the employees and making sure they are enabled to give us honest input without fear of retaliation. And working on science-based decision making. Those are going to be our first few things.”

Any plans for a golf trail?
“We want to make sure if we’re taking any actions they are pursuant and consistent with the mission of the agency, which is to protect manage and enhance our natural rescaources.”

How can you reach out to constituents?
“I don’t want to be overly simplistic, but you start by talking to them.That’s been a problem over the last many years. And they know Pat Quinn has been a champion for the outdoors and they know I’ve been working with Pat Quinn on those issues. And we’re going to be talking to them and meeting with them. And together, it will have to be togther, we can get the job done.”

There has been talk of qualifications for this job. Have you ever worn a coonskin cap?
“I have taken water samples, I have not worn a coonskin cap. Being a natural resources professional is important to this agency. And whether it’s going hunting, going fishing, taking water samples, being a turkey biologist—all those things are important. We’ll bring it all together and listen to everybody, field trial interests, everybody will have a seat at the table and we’ll be talking to them.”

Did you say you are going to hire a turkey biologist?
“That’s one of the things that I’m concerned about, is that we are missing very key components of the mission. We’ll have to assess and go from there.”

You can’t blame folks for being guarded about Marc Miller’s recent appointment to lead the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

After six years of cuts, abuse and ineffective leadership, the DNR is in a precarious position. Morale is horrible. The agency’s reputation has been tarnished. Compounding the difficulties of the rebuilding job Miller faces is a $9 billion state budget deficit.

So while various conservation groups may be lauding Miller’s appointment and praising him as a “natural resources professional,” there’s still many who say, “Why should we trust this latest political appointment?”

Here’s a starting point: He’s not taking this job to boost his pension, to secure employment for other members of his family or so he can jet off to South Dakota to hunt pheasants.
Miller cares. He gets what DNR does and means. And he’s willing to work hard.

How do I know this? In a lot of little ways.

Moments after he was tabbed by Gov. Pat Quinn, Miller said two words that stunned me: “turkey biologist.” We haven’t had one since Jared Garver retired in 2003 and I don’t think any of the past few directors realized that. Or cared.

Miller does. He realizes there’s money to be made by selling more turkey hunting permits. But first we need someone to determine how much hunting pressure can be handled by the state’s growing turkey flock.

Miller calls that “science-based decision making.” To me it’s just common sense that has for too long been lacking at DNR. Here’s hoping Miller starts applying the same common sense to the sale of non-resident deer permits — a well of money that needs to capped and tapped in creative ways to benefit resident hunters.

Here’s another small way Miller has impressed. Months before he received his appointment, Miller called Chad Franklin of the National Wild Turkey Federation. He wanted to talk to NWTF’s state biologist and asked to attend that group’s Illinois awards banquet.

After six years of not even getting calls returned from DNR, Franklin was understandably surprised. “That impressed me,” he said. “He introduced himself to us without us even asking.”

Don’t misunderstand, Miller is not turkey crazy. He has called on Ducks Unlimited, Prairie Rivers Network, the Illinois Federation for Outdoor Resources and Pheasants Forever. He even called Migratory Waterfowler Hunters, Inc. of Alton, whose president Scott Bryant said, “One thing I know is there will be an open-door policy, unlike the past six years.”

Miller also opened that door to former director Brent Manning. And he sought advice from some of Manning’s top aides, including Jerry Beverlin. The former director of land management, Beverlin has been working on a program to improve access for resident hunters.

Access is a thorny issue that has no easy solution. Maybe that’s why former director Joel Brunsvold once said it was, “an issue this agency will not pursue.”

Not so Miller. “Access is one of the critical issues we face,” Miller said. And he’s not mouthing platitudes. While he currently has a deer hunting spot in Cumberland County, Miller said he has lost other ground over the years due to land leasing or the sale of farms he once hunted.

Compare that level of understanding to Kurt Granberg. Granberg had a year to ponder the DNR. When he was tabbed as director, the first concrete idea he brought with him was to create a golf trail in southern Illinois.

Never mind that DNR has nothing to do with golf. Granberg was convinced his idea was a great one. And while he quickly came up with better thoughts after being named — including a few Miller would be wise to pursue — Granberg never saw the flaw in adding golf to DNR’s plate.

Miller said the golf trail is not something he will pursue.

“We want to make sure if we’re taking any actions they are pursuant and consistent with the mission of the agency, which is to protect, manage and enhance our natural resources,” Miller said.

It’s nice to finally have a director who understands that mission.

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

“Here?s a starting point: He?s not taking this job to boost his pension, to secure employment for other members of his family or so he can jet off to South Dakota to hunt pheasants’

Wow Jeff that really does sum up the last six years at IDNR! 

Miller needs to surround himself with good people.  Sounds like he is starting with a turkey biologist.  Hopefully IDNR can root out the incompetent hacks and start replacing them with professionals that can help Miller with the goals of the agency.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/08 at 08:05 AM

Don’t see what difference it would make whether we trust Mr Miller or not, the hunting and fishing community has no voice in political matters of this kind.

All we can do is hope for the best. If he gets all the money being promised…it should make a great deal of difference in IDNR…I Think?

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/08 at 10:48 AM

Jeff, a Director of the IDNR shouldn’t be concerned with “selling more turkey hunting permits to make more money.” But he certainly should be concerned about filling a professional turkey biologist staff position that has cost the Department additional funding that they could have generated by coordinating grants from the NWTF. That position could also have determined how much hunting pressure can be handled by the state’s fluctuating turkey flock in order to maximize the hunting opportunities for resident turkey hunters. Likewise, with the idea that “the sale of non-resident deer permits — a well of money that needs to be capped and tapped in creative ways to benefit resident hunters.”  I agree wholeheartedly that the commercialization of Illinois’ natural resources for the maximum benefit of special interest groups and non-residents, needs to end.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/08 at 03:38 PM

Good article Jeff, and by the way, who is that PSO blogger in the photo background with the beard and the big ‘ol grin on his face?  I’m really glad to hear that Miller has an “open door” with outdoors groups. He will learn a lot, and probably already has. I think one of the tests of his new tenure at the IDNR will be how he chooses to manage the deer herd, and how he handles the recommendations from the Deer Task Force. I think most hunters agree that by and large, the JTF recommendations belong in waste basket, starting with Sullivan’s first season “bonus day”, like that had ANYTHING to do with the deer population or sound herd management.

Posted by Henry Holt on 02/08 at 07:05 PM

You are right on the money, that the new IDNR should forget the Task Force/ Farm Bureau’s recommendations.
Senator Sullivan’s political parlor tricks, should be a thing of the past in our new IDNR & our new IL Government. No more ‘task force’ made up of mostly politicians. The new IDNR is back in control.
Big D is also correct that the new IDNR need to bring back our NR cap & put it more in line with the number it was set at from the onset. Before greedy IL businessmen kept getting it pushed up to where it has no effect of limiting the sell off of our IL hunting heritage.

I think Miller & Quinn are going to do there best to give IL outdoorsmen a fighting chance to save something precious to all of us. Their is now new hope that our future generations will have something to look forward to !!!!
Marc Miller & Pat Quinn both told Kevin Chapman & I( last April at the IL Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus ), that they would do all that they could, to help the outdoors community. They both said that we had been treated unfairly for far too long. 10 months later & these two guys are holding true to their words & giving us a ton of help & lots of hope, so far.
Now they will also need a lot of our help, to correct all these years of wrong doings.
Lets make sure we all do our part in this rebuilding process & pitch in to help in any way we can !!!

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/08 at 08:40 PM

I guess one of the prerequisites of being governor is learning how to use 15 different pens to sign one bill!!!

Henry is right… how Marc Miller handles these JTF proposals will tell the hunters of IL a lot right out of the gate.

Posted by KC-IBS on 02/08 at 09:36 PM

An outfitter, a IBS officer, and an outdoor writer all agreeing on something.  It may be a first!  Sounds like Illinois IDNR may be in capable hands, finally.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/09 at 08:18 AM

Gang, Things seem to be going our way here..I feel much better about our future in the field now that Quinn and Miller are in…Lets get behind it and work hard to support those that seem to be talking in favor of the Wildlife programs and working in the right direction for betterment…..Things arent always going to play out perfect, but I truly think we have some good players in position now, that care about our programs and share in thought and goals such as we do as sporstman. Let us watch as these men get to work and then go from there !!....... Paul Wright

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/09 at 10:09 AM

I think Miller is a welcomed sign. He HAS to be better than Kurt Granberg. Anyone would better than Kurt.
I am very curious on what will come about with the Deer Task Force. It needs stopped and have appointed bio’s figure out what if anythign needs done.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/10 at 06:33 AM

I think some of you guys know more about Mr Miller than I do and it all sounds like a very good appointment. So based on what you say, he has my best wishes and support in all the things that are reasonable and fair to wildlife and the hunting community. Being screwed over by politicians over the years is not easily forgotten for some of us so I will be hoping and watching. We’ll see. Has to be better than what we have had in the past.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/10 at 06:31 PM

Does this mean that we can expect the “Conservation Congress” to be reconvened in the near future?  We would all like to know what kind of “public input” Director Miller means when he says he would like to get input from constituents?  Certainly, one could not consider the “dog & pony” shows that the Task Force Committee came up with “public input.”  Maybe the new Director would like to let us know what he has in mind?

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/11 at 09:20 AM

I don’t think we should get up in arms regarding the new directors experience. We voted for a man with no experience to be president of the United States, so I think experience in a directors position is unimportant. Let’s see what he can do.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/14 at 01:26 PM

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