Illinois Outdoors at
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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

DNR working on youth recruitment

September 13, 2009 at 09:12 AM

A handful of layoffs are still likely and the funding future is no clearer for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

Despite ongoing fiscal woes, DNR may actually be making headway in one critical area: youth recruitment.

I say that because recent developments are actually making it easier for parents to get kids outside.

While that should be an obvious step to getting families involved, take nothing for granted where government is involved. Youth events are too often under-publicized and over regulated.

This despite the fact bureaucrats have for years talked around the issue of getting kids outdoors.

I worried that might be the case when DNR director Marc Miller made youth recruitment one of three priorities for the Oct. 24-25 Conservation Congress (the other two are public access and funding).

Instead, recent developments have been pleasantly surprising. Just this week came news of a free fishing day on Saturday, Sept. 19 in all state areas that offer public fishing opportunities.

Residents and non-residents of all ages can fish that day without a license.

That’s a nice gesture. But here’s one suggestion: expand the free days to the entire Labor Day Weekend next year. That would be a great way for families to end the summer outdoors together.

The free fishing day follows creation of an online calendar for youth activities (, that is a clearinghouse for programs, application dates and the like. You can even sign up to receive e-mail reports of youth events in your area.

For instance, did you know the application period for youth waterfowl hunts is open through Oct. 1 for events at Banner Marsh (Oct. 24-25), Spring Lake Bottoms (Nov. 8) and Donnelley-DePue (Nov. 14-15)?

Or that if you dig deeper into the DNR Web site, you’ll learn there are still 13 youth pheasant hunting permits available for an Oct. 31 hunt at the Mackinaw River State Fish and Wildlife Area. Visit to apply.

These events are typically well run, and last weekend’s youth dove hunt at Mackinaw is a good example. A group of 34 youngsters and adults shot 315 doves and 13 limits in two fields that had been reserved for the youth hunt. By comparison, adults shot 202 doves and no limits in the first four days of hunting elsewhere at Mackinaw.

Even so, there’s no question it’s hard to keep track of all the applications and other hoops a parent has to jump through to get their kid hunting. The calendar should help.

The same is true of new over-the-counter permits for the Oct. 10-11 statewide youth deer hunt.
In the past, people had to apply in advance for the youth tags. Many missed the deadlines.
This year all you need to do is to visit a license vendor and plop down the money for a youth permit. Permits should be available starting Tuesday.

Those are the kind of changes DNR must make to help get more kids outdoors.

Of course, the rest is up to you parents. So take time to get your youngster(s) outside this fall.

Story and comments

DNR access committee to meet

July 24, 2009 at 07:17 AM

The last of the three new Department of Natural Resources advisory committees is set to meet in August.

This third committee is designed to offer input on public access for hunting and fishing. Here is a memo that went out to prospective committee members.

Public Access/Hunting and Fishing Committee
Illinois Natural Resources Advisory Board
Committee Charge
Version:  July 22, 2009

In February of 2009, Governor Quinn nominated Marc Miller as Director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and established a new positive direction for the DNR.  Without delay, Director Miller moved to reengage, and involve DNR constituents with the rebuilding of the agency and formulate new directions for providing outdoor recreation opportunities and natural resource conservation.  As part of this effort, the DNR has developed a slimmed down approach to the Illinois Conservation Congress where the Illinois Natural Resource Advisory Board will provide the forum to provide natural resource constituents a voice into the direction of the DNR.  This committee is one of three charged with developing reports and recommendations that incorporate science and public input on public access and hunting/trapping/fishing issues. 


The Public Access/Hunting and Fishing Committee is responsible for engaging, and informing our constituency on the development, update, and review of public access initiatives, and hunting/trapping/fishing regulations and programs via public input obtained from meetings and the internet. To accomplish this charge the committee works in two primary areas:

1)  Public Access Program Development and Evaluation

Goal – Provide every outdoor recreationist an opportunity to pursue their outdoor activity.

Describe what outdoor recreationists want from a public access program. 
Evaluate and comment on previous attempts made at developing public access programs in Illinois.
Review and recommend human dimension research needed to determine which landowner incentives needed to open lands to public access have the greatest potential to succeed.
Review other public access programs of other states and evaluate their potential effectiveness for being used in Illinois.
Review and recommend changes to the Recreational Use of Land and Water Areas Act (745 ILCS 65/) and other Illinois Compiled Statutes to reduce liability concerns of landowners.
Compile all of the above mentioned reviews and recommendations into a report providing one or more alternatives upon which the DNR can consider implementing.

2)  Hunting/Trapping/Fishing Program Review and Evaluation

Goal – Provide the public the opportunity to review and comment on potential changes to the DNR’s hunting/trapping/fishing programs.

Review and comment on potential and proposed changes to statewide and site hunting/trapping/fishing season regulations.
Facilitate obtaining public input on major hunting/trapping/fishing season changes.
Serve as the DNR’s Committee on Hunting and Fishing Equipment which evaluates the legality, safety, and effectiveness of equipment used for hunting and fishing.


The Committee shall work in close coordination with DNR staff and shall involve other constituent groups that have a stake in programs and issues being considered.
The Committee shall report their deliberations and recommendations to the Illinois Natural Resources Advisory Committee and the Director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
The Committee will only follow Roberts Rules of Order when a recommendation or committee direction is being considered.  Meetings of the committee will otherwise be conducted at the discretion of the chair.
Detailed minutes will not be maintained, but a summary report outlining the deliberations and recommendations of the committee will be maintained.
Reports, recommendations, and presentations resulting from committee deliberations shall be posted on the DNR’s web site.
Committee chair(s) are responsible for chairing committee meetings, working with staff to develop an agenda, and presenting recommendations to the Illinois Natural Resources Advisory Board and the Director of the Department of Natural Resources.
John Buhnerkempe (Chief, Division of Wildlife Resources) will be responsible for providing the technical and operational support to the committee.

Membership (Invited)

Larry Lucas (co-chair), Illinois Natural Resources Advisory Board
Pat Kernan (co-chair), Illinois Natural Resources Advisory Board
Dick Wren, Illinois Natural Resources Advisory Board
Dale Stewart, Illinois Natural Resources Advisory Board
Claudia Emken, Illinois Natural Resources Advisory Board
Randy Blackford, Illinois Natural Resources Advisory Board
Joyce O’Keefe, Illinois Natural Resources Advisory Board
Joe Hampton, previous IDOA Director
John Graham, Illinois Smallmouth Alliance
Nancy Erickson, Illinois Farm Bureau
Lenore Beyer-Clow, Openlands
Tom Lindblade, Illinois Paddlers Council
Jerry Gillie, United Bowhunters of Illinois
Jerry Beverlin, United Bowhunters of Illinois
Kevin Chapman, Illinois Bowhunter Society
Kent Adams, National Wild Turkey Federation
Aaron Kuehl, Pheasants Forever/Quail Forever
Scott Bryant, Migratory Waterfowl Hunters
Bob Becker, Illinois Federation of Outdoor Resources
Jerry Martoglio, Illinois Bass Federation
Paul Kelley, Illinois Trappers Association

Story and comments

Of dams, ducks and fees

July 20, 2009 at 03:35 PM

During a conversation with DNR director Marc Miller on Monday, several topics came up. Here are a few worth noting:

>> Miller said legislation paving the way for proposed fee increases recently passed out of committee by an 8-2 vote.

“We will pursue fees to help the situation at the agency,” Miller said. “I think if we can assure legislators the funds aren’t going to be swept and are going to stay in the agency ... I think we can get fees passed.”

One measure DNR is not pursuing is the creation of a parking fee to visit state parks.

>> Conservation Congress is returning in an altered form. To save time and money, the lengthy process of old is being boiled down to committee meetings and then a summit Oct. 24-25 in Springfield.

Committees are meeting to discuss three issues: 1. youth recruitment and retention, 2. public access, 3. funding. Meetings started this week and include a discussion on funding chaired by Yates City resident Claudia Emken this Thursday at 5 p.m. at DNR headquarters.

The public is welcome to comment on proposals. Visit to learn more.

>> A controversial dam safety bill has been tabled, meaning anglers can continue to legally fish at the Bernadotte dam. Look for a revised rule change that may or may not impact the Bernadotte dam.

“I’m looking forward to working on something that will balance public safety and recreation,” Miller said.

>> The state capital budget includes $40 million for dam safety work. Miller said some of that will be spent to remove an as-yet-undetermined dam.

“Dam removal is actually cheaper than dam modification,” he said.

>> Duck dates should be out this week. Check Friday’s column for details.

Story and comments

What will budget mean for DNR?

July 16, 2009 at 02:15 PM

So we finally have a state budget. What a joke. What a saw commentary that our elected officials take this long to basically make no hard decisions.

We either need a tax increase or serious cuts. We got neither.

But enough venting. What will this mean for the Department of Natural Resources?

My hunch, and this is not based on any reporting yet, is that the DNR will fare OK. Much of the decision-making for the budget now falls on Gov. Pat Quinn. And I don’t think he will take an axe to the outdoors budget. Quinn has shown that he is a good friend of DNR and believes the agency has taken enough cuts already.

That said, can you imagine how bad things would be for DNR if Rod Blagojevich was still in office? Wow.

Anyway, that’s just my guess on this. But unfortunately I’ll probably have to dig deeper next week to see whether that hunch is correct.


Story and comments

NWTF supports DNR budget

May 28, 2009 at 08:15 AM

As the budget talks in Springfield near an end, some conservation groups are rallying behind Gov. Pat Quinn’s budget proposals for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

A cynic might point out that of course conservation groups are rallying behind the budget, since more money for the DNR will likely mean more money for them.

But I think there are some good points made in the following letter from Kent Adams, the National Wild Turkey Federation’s regional biologist for Illinois. Specifically this one:

At first glance, the proposed 25 percent cut from last year’s general revenue fund budget may look reasonable during hard economic times. However, such a reduction must be viewed in the context of the last six years in which the DNR experienced more than its fair share of cuts compared to other state agencies. The proposed cuts would leave the DNR at half their general revenue funding level of 2001.

Here’s the full text of the letter.

NWTF letter supporting DNR budget

Dear NWTF Members:

As the current legislative session comes to a close, Illinois sportsmen and women must once again make their voices heard in Springfield. Legislators need to hear from you that cutting the proposed budget for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) would spell disaster for an already ailing agency.

At first glance, the proposed 25 percent cut from last year’s general revenue fund budget may look reasonable during hard economic times. However, such a reduction must be viewed in the context of the last six years in which the DNR experienced more than its fair share of cuts compared to other state agencies. The proposed cuts would leave the DNR at half their general revenue funding level of 2001.

Further cuts would require even more staff layoffs, program reductions and facility closings. Some of the more alarming losses from a long list of negative impacts include reducing or eliminating hunter education program, complete loss of forestry assistance and state nursery seedling production, state park closings, and reducing the already depleted Conservation Police staff.

Tell legislators that our natural resources already have paid a hefty price to solve the state’s budget problems. Enough is enough.

Beyond general revenue funding, some new user fees and fee increases for certain licenses and permits have been proposed. The new user fees are mostly targeted toward funding the staff and maintenance of state parks and other state sites. These fees will help capture funding from non hunter/angler recreational users. The proposed license and permit fee increases that will affect hunters directly are modest adjustments, considering they have not been raised since the 1970s. Hunters and anglers have a long history of willingly paying the way for conservation, and these increases will help rebuild the agency responsible for managing our state’s natural resources. The new DNR leadership has vowed to protect these funds for their dedicated purpose. First in line is filling the turkey and upland game biologist positions left vacant by retirement.

Tell your legislators you support modest fee increases to fund conservation, and that sweeping these dedicated funds to balance the state budget (as the previous administration was prone to do) is illegal and unacceptable.

Find contact information for your local legislators at the following link.

Kent Adams
NWTF Regional Biologist for Illinois

Story and comments

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