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

Open Blog Thursday

November 05, 2009 at 02:23 AM

This thoughtful response was too interesting not to pass on to you, the readers. Besides, I am out hunting this morning and need all the help I can get doing my job.

FROM Alan Gretz of Peoria:

“Regarding your column today about natural resources funding in Illinois, I do appreciate your willingness to publicize the need to find better ways to fund our natural resources. We’re in a tight spot, that’s for sure. But one of the options being floated around—an admission fee to our state parks—would be a tragically short-sighted reversal of more than a century of public policy when it comes to access to our public lands.

Realize that state parks and national forests weren’t set aside for the benefit of only those who could afford to buy access. Our parks were created not only to protect the resources but SPECIFICALLY for the benefit of the masses, for people of all classes and all economic means. Please review the original debates of the era, the impassioned speeches delivered in Congress and elsewhere, as America worked to set aside millions of acres for our generations. The speeches are inspiring—U.S. senators, for example, refusing to sign on to the establishment of National Forests unless free access was guaranteed for all.

As America’s wild lands began to disappear and slip into private ownership, conservationists and political leaders alike made a beautiful decision by acquiring and setting aside the wild places for
the benefit of our generation. Today we hunt, hike and fish on public lands that exist only because of these efforts. And while many of us can easily afford to pay a few dollars to buy a fishing license or buy a waterfowl stamp, there are thousands of people out there with little means to buy their way into a state park to hike alone in the woods. Thus, admission fees would instantly prevent the disadvantaged classes from having that free access originally demanded by those who fought to create these public lands.

Perhaps you’ve forgotten what it’s like to be a kid on a bike, exploring the “wilderness” of the local park. Or a 20-year-old with barely enough gas money to visit Garden of the Gods or Starved Rock. The exclusionary effect of admission fees—regardless of the several examples now creeping into other states—does more harm than good, and here’s why: When we begin to exclude our young people from nature, at a time when young people are more disconnected than ever from nature, we accelerate the trend toward fewer young hunters and fishermen, and fewer outdoors-educated young adults.

Ultimately, support for our wild places, including the revenues to support those places, will disappear. Walking through a public forest or sitting on a log by a wetland where clouds of ducks are passing overhead is not a privilege meant for only those with good jobs and a steady paycheck. Our public parks and forests were created for everybody, the wealthy and the penniless alike, for the protection of nature and for the benefit of all generations who will have, if nothing else, a place to call their own.

Please rethink your position on fees for public access. You will be in good company, with history on your side.”

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