There is one less executive working for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
Tom Flattery, long-time director for the Office of Realty and Environmental Planning who had survived numerous political changes in Springfield, was escorted out of DNR headquarters on Tuesday. Word is Flattery had 10 minutes to collect his personal items before leaving the office.
Todd Rettig will be handling Flattery’s duties in the interim.
I’ll miss Flattery, a duck and deer hunter who oversaw land acquisitions for the DNR. One scene I’ll never forget from his career is Flattery sitting calmly in a room of angry farmers in Canton when DNR purchased what is now the Double T Goose Management Area.
It will be interesting to see if any other members of the DNR executive hierarchy leave Springfield in the months to come.Story and comments
I hear mention all the time about Missouri’s dedicated sales tax funding for conservation.
There’s a perception out there that all we need in Illinois to solve the problems of our DNR is more money through a similar dedicated fund.
And there’s no doubt a dedicated source of money would help. But there’s more to it than that. There’s a connection to the outdoors in Missouri that seems stronger than here in Illinois. As yet another example, I cite the following story off today’s wire.
Mo. House OKs making wildlife changes harder
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri House members have given first-round approval to a proposed constitutional amendment designed to make it harder for citizen efforts to change state wildlife and forestry policies.
Lawmakers voted 131-27 on Tuesday to approve a measure that would require a four-sevenths majority to approve initiatives dealing with hunting, fishing or forestry. Currently, it only takes a simple majority.
Sponsoring House member Mike Dethrow, a Republican from Alton, says conservation is particularly important and should be shielded from easy change. He expressed fears of national groups seeking to curtail hunting and fishing rights by passing ballot measures.
A critic says lawmakers risked setting a precedent in which a majority is no longer sufficient to govern.
Story and comments
Here’s a letter from Illinois Department of Natural Resources Director Marc Miller that went out to DNR employees.
As expected, the letter includes news of five job postings for staff to work on Asian carp in Lake Michigan. Sigh.
More commentary to come, no doubt.
But first, here’s the letter.
Marc Miller’s letter to DNR staff
Since my first day as Director, I have been looking to identify, fund, and fill critical positions to perform the mission of this agency and begin the rebuilding process.
Given the challenges facing the state, we all understood that change would not happen overnight or appear miraculous.
I thank you for your patience, as well as your continued dedication to your work.
I am pleased to tell you all about another round of progress. DNR has been approved to fill the following positions:
o Office Associate Option 2 (4 positions) – Boating-Ofc of Strategic Services
o Conservation Police Sergeant – Homeland Security
o Natural Resources Advance Specialist, Option 3 – Forestry, ORC
o Site Technician II – Kankakee SP, Lands
o Account Technician II – Lands, Region V
o Site Superintendent II – Apple River SP
o Site Superintendent III – Mississippi River WMA
o Conservation Police Officer II – Duty Officer
o Technical Advisor II (2 positions) – Office of Legal Counsel
There will also be changes in two management positions.
Travis Loyd will be promoted to Deputy Director to address procurement, contracts, and other internal responsibilities. To begin, Travis will focus on implementation of SB51 and to ensure that the new law on procurement is implemented in a seamless fashion. He will also take on responsibilities gradually to assume a chief-of-staff role to Assistant Director Rogner and myself. Our state purchasing officer (CMS), Norm Dixon, will report to Travis.
Kristin DiCenso Vacek will assume leadership of the Office of Strategic Services. This office, which we combined last year from the Offices of Administration, Special Events and Public Services, will continue to report to AD John Rogner.
We have made earlier progress on a wild turkey specialist, grassland wildlife specialist, a position at Sparta and various positions within Mines and Minerals.
Also reported in an earlier message, we will have five fisheries positions that will focus on invasive species. The Asian carp situation in the Chicago Area Waterway
System has been a significant human resource challenge, but one we are addressing by taking advantage of federal funding and creating positions to deal with this challenge in the field.
There is more progress to come on front line positions, and there will be other announcements in the near future.
Yours in conservation,
Story and comments
Here’s a proposed law I am surprised is not on the books in more places.
For some reason, the first line in this story really made me laugh.
I was also surprised at the end to read that NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he couldn’t get this passed for hunting grounds or at firing ranges.
Drunk, carrying gun would be illegal in NY
NEW YORK (AP) - A newly introduced bill would make New York the 21st state to outlaw carrying a gun while drunk.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg and state Sen. Jeffrey Klein announced the legislation Thursday.
The law would rely on the same blood alcohol level - .08 percent - used to determine whether a driver is drunk.
It would make it a class-A misdemeanor. The punishment would be up to one year in jail and a $10,000 fine.
Unlike most other states that have the law, New York’s would not apply to hunting grounds or firing ranges.
Bloomberg and Klein said it would be too difficult to get those restrictions passed in New York.
Story and comments
Here’s tan e-mail Illinois Department of Natural Resources Director Marc Miller sent out to staff recently.
There are some interesting items in here. So read on.
Dear DNR employee:
As I reflect back on the past year and prepare for the new one, I wanted to take a moment and acknowledge what a pleasure it has been to work with such a dedicated and professional team. My energy and enthusiasm has been continuously re-energized as I have watched how this agency and its employees accept challenges and not only meet them but exceed expectations. Your commitment and work brings us renewed recognition.
One of the reasons I accepted this role - and one of the reasons it was offered to me - was my desire and commitment to rebuild this agency.
This commitment is not only about restoring DNR’s position of conservation leadership, but also with an understanding that our priorities need to better reflect the challenges - societal and recreational changes - that we face. We need to ensure that the agency and its mission is relevant to constituents, taxpayers, legislators, and appropriators.
Some of the changes we have made or are making to the agency will help us adapt to these changes and address troubling trends:
Consolidating three offices (public services, special events and administration) into an Office of Strategic Services; Creating a Private Lands and Watersheds division within ORC - to focus on the opportunities for conservation on the 96% (plus) of Illinois in private hands; Considering ways to deliver better public recreational access on private lands (there have been some great ideas here from staff and we’re still working on details - hat tip to Bean-o and Herkert); In addition to hiring a youth program coordinator, we will be hiring outreach and education coordinators and creating an Office/Division of Community Outreach. (Still some details to be worked out here, but this will be a new effort to reach youth and engage constituencies.)
We continue to focus on bringing qualified natural resource professionals to DNR. The unprecedented appointment of John Rogner (DNR has never had TWO natural resources professionals running the agency in appointed slots), and bringing on highly qualified individuals like Dr. Jim Herkert, Travis Loyd, and Mitch Cohen to run their Offices give me great pride in our progress.
There is more to come. In the next several days and weeks we will be joined by several more professionals - highly qualified, energetic and committed to the mission of DNR - and there will be job postings for positions that we have deemed critical to our mission (Finally, biologists!).
This budget climate as we all know has been and will continue to be a major challenge for our State. Our agency has made progress on securing new revenue sources with the legislative approval of our fee increases, and the promise of new federal dollars for the Great Lakes programs, and we are working on other means of revenue. The passage of a fees bill in veto session was a tremendous victory and one that made many people take notice of our efforts.
Because of the passage of the fees bill, we are able to justify these new hires. There are many more critical hires needed throughout the agency, and we will continue to work hard and build a sustainable budget and rationale for these hires. It will take time and progress will not be as quick as we might like, but we will make progress.
In the coming year we will need everyone to pursue creative revenue streams and other opportunities for funding. (Contact Tami Evans with any ideas)
One of our highlights from the past year was the Conservation Congress that was held in October. Over 150 stakeholders gathered to begin the nuts and bolts work of rebuilding this agency. Thanks to everyone - especially Debbie Stone - for making this event such a great success.
At this time last year I would never have guessed that a response to an invasive species such as asian carp would have demanded so much time and energy. Our rapid response effort in December was a shining leadership moment for our agency, and a prime example of how a small group committed people can make a difference.
DNR led an effort that included multiple international, federal, state, and local partners to ensure that this invasive species would not enter the Great Lakes and threaten one of the world’s great ecosystems. Thank you to everyone who participated in this effort, and specific gratitude to Steve Shults, John Rogner, Chris McCloud, Randy Heidorn, Truman Scheller, Karen Reuter, Jim Mick, Gary Lutterbie, Steve Pallo, Mitch Cohen, Debbie Fortman, Stacey Solano, all of our law enforcement professionals, other unnamed fisheries biologists (Sallee, Stephenson, Mounce, etc), who worked nights and weekends to not only ensure a successful operation but perhaps more importantly one that was conducted safely and securely in cold temperatures. Apologies to anyone I didn’t mention - Operation Silver Screen was an enormous project.
Finally, as an agency, one of the major challenges we face in the coming years will be building the next generation of outdoor and conservation enthusiasts - within the Department and in the general public. Much of our intellectual capital exists in the minds of our staff who are currently eligible to retire or nearing retirement. I need to tap your collective wisdom and experience as we develop our strategic response to this challenge, and I would like to invite you to join in this effort.
If you have a particular expertise, role, or knowledge, please mentor a junior colleague or new hire internally, and please do the same for those interested in the outdoors in your community (hat tip to Darren Lawary). There will be more about efforts to meet these challenges in the coming weeks and months.
I am personally excited about the coming year. Clearly the budget, and projects like asian carp will continue to challenge us in the new year, but we also have some wonderful new programs and initiatives we are getting underway and planning to introduce. Thank you for all that you do and let’s continue our great work together.
Yours in conservation,