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

Ex-DNR official’s take on fee increases

November 10, 2009 at 08:43 PM

Mike Conlin was a long-time official with the Department of Natural Resources who retired earlier this year.

He spent years heading the fisheries department and then was in charge of the Office of Resource Conservation. He was never short on opinions.

Here’s his take on the DNR’s recent license fee increases.

“Just read your article on fee increases posted last evening on Prairie State Outdoors. You scored an absolutely direct hit. I agree with everything you pointed out. Back late last winter I was finally called down to the DNR’s front office for a meeting to discuss the proposed fees (first time I had seen the proposal or been ask to comment on it. Director Miller was not present at this meeting), I stated that I would like to go over the proposal in detail, then discuss the pros and cons. I was abruptly told that ‘We don’t have time for the facts.’ 

“I stated in writing at that time that any proposal to raise hunting and fishing license fees should be accompanied by a detailed description of exactly what we would do with the money generated. This should then be distributed widely to get feedback from our constituents. Once we had their support, we should go forward with a proposal. I also stated that any Park Entrance Fee proposal should exempt those who have a current hunting or fishing license. In addition, I cautioned that the amount of the increases should be carefully considered as we might find ourselves in the position of raising fees only to take in less revenue (the initial internal proposal was to raise both hunting and fishing license fees by $5 each), as the number of hunters and anglers has dropped significantly, nationwide, over the past 12 years.

“The proposal for hunting and fishing license fee increases was later changed to increase the hunting license fee by $5 and fishing by $2.  The rationale was that hunting licenses hadn’t been raised since the early 1980’s while the fishing license had been increased in 1994. True, but in reality, not true. About the time the fishing license was raised $5 in 1994, purchase of a $5 Habitat Stamp to hunt became a requirement. I submit that that was an increase in the hunting license fee!!! 

“My point is that both licenses should be increased the same amount, whatever amount our anglers and hunters determine they will support. That support will only come from being provided detailed specifics of what exactly it is that they will be getting for their money. Generalities like “the fishing license fees will go for support of the fisheries management program” don’t get it. Statements like that cover a multitude of possible sins and one has absolutely no idea where the dollars will be spent. Huge amounts of the Wildlife and Fish Fund have been diverted away from the Divisions of Wildlife, Fisheries, Law Enforcement, and Lands because of the General Revenue shortfalls in the rest of the DNR. 

“While I understand the rationale for some of the redirection (so long as they were legal under both state and federal law), it grew like topsy to the point where it began to undermine the core mission of the Department to conserve and manage our precious aquatic and wildlife resources and their habitats. Continuing to spend money on a “fat executive staff”  should have no place in current spending priorities, let alone be allowed to continue while proposing to raise license fees.

“I believe that Director Miller’s heart is in the right place, but it will take strong constituent pressure to get the Governor’s Office to allow him to pursue the actions that so desperately need doing.”

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