Illinois Outdoors at PrairiestateOutdoors.com
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Jeff Lampe
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
 

Scattershooting

A Web log by Jeff Lampe of the Journal Star

Illinois hunting and fishing

Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn speaks at the dedication of the Spring Lake Bottoms wetland unit a few years ago. In the background, Lisa Madigan listens.

A ray of hope for the DNR

January 15, 2009 at 06:15 PM

Whatever else he is, Gov. Blagojevich is no friend of conservation. If anything, Blagojevich has shown disdain for the critters and conservation-minded folks of Illinois.

So his impending impeachment brings hope to the outdoors world for the first time in six years.

I think it’s real hope.

Because whatever else he is, Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn has been a friend of conservation.

Admittedly, Quinn has been conservation-minded in a role that allows for fanfare without much actual accomplishment. And he has played the bald eagle card a few times too many. But Quinn seems to genuinely care about critters and outdoors enthusiasts.

That alone would be an improvement.

But Quinn has also shown a willingness to take a stand. He successfully battled to reallocate acres in the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program. He’s advocated creative ways to fund the Department of Natural Resources. He helped acquire Plum Island. Most recently, he raised awareness of park closings and generated 33,000 signatures through online petitions.

If all goes well — cross your fingers — Quinn will soon be in a position to do much more.

“It’s a little presumptuous right now since there’s a trial going on in the senate, but the lieutenant governor has said there will be a prompt review of the (DNR) in relationship to the director once the time is correct,” said Marc Miller, one of Quinn’s senior policy adviser. “And the lieutenant governor has said the agency would be best served by a natural resource professional.”

In other words, acting director Sam Flood is out. And other political hacks need not apply.

Hearing that, some are backing Brent Manning for a return to the job he did so well for 12 years. But that’s not going to happen said Manning, who is now executive director of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County.

“When I left I bought five years (toward retirement) and if I went back I would have to forfeit that time,”  Manning said. “So maybe I’m better off in a capacity where I can help. And I’m willing to help.”

That’s something DNR desperately needs. Morale is low. Leadership is virtually non-existent. Communication of policy changes is poor. Parks are closed. Things are so bad the federal government may withhold $25 million from DNR due to inappropriate diversion of funds in recent years.

Manning said the state of his former agency nearly drives him to tears. With that in mind, he has provided a vision for restoring the DNR to the prominence it enjoyed under his tenure.  You can see Manning’s blueprint elsewhere on this Web site.

A central theme to his plan is returning to professional hiring in natural resources. Manning suggests the best way to accomplish that is to establish a commission that would oversee natural resources and take politics out of the equation.

Manning has been pounding that drum for the past few years and the beat is sounding better and better. But with the state’s other myriad problems, that’s realistically a change that would be best raised with the next governor elected.

In the short term, it will be nice merely to have someone who values the world outside.

While Quinn is a Chicago guy who grew up in Hinsdale and graduated from Northwestern, he has hunted. He fishes.

That makes a difference, as we’ve learned while grimacing at a governor whose only contact with critters is the rats he sees in the alley behind his home.

“(Pat Quinn) has an appreciation and an understanding of what (DNR) does and what natural resources and the outdoors mean to our citizens,” Miller said. “He enjoys spending time with his sons outdoors.”

That helps.

It helps too that Miller, one of four senior policy advisers, is an angler and paddler who has worked hard behind the scenes for the DNR.

Of course, there are no guarantees. No guarantee even that Quinn will take over. Who knows what tricks Blagojevich might still have up his crooked sleeve.

But at least there’s a ray of hope on the horizon for the conservation world.

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