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.

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A Web log by Jeff Lampe of the Journal Star

Open Blog Thursday 12-3-09

December 03, 2009 at 05:20 PM

I am AWOL. Help.

FROM Mike Conlin:

As we enter the holiday season our thoughts often turn to what we have to be thankful for and what we would like to see as Christmas and the New Year approach with lightning speed. I am thankful for hard-working, dedicated front-line DNR field and Springfield staffers who have somehow managed to continue their good work, despite the overwhelming odds of severe budget deficiencies and political patronage at the top. I am thankful for all those hunters, anglers and outdoor enthusiasts who have worked hard to assist the DNR in trying to achieve it’s core mission of managing our precious fish and wildlife and their habitats.  I am thankful that our former Governor is just that…....our former Governor. 

The bright light of hope which the arrival of Governor Quinn and Director Marc Miller brought to conservation constituents and DNR Staff alike some 10 months ago has dimmed considerably.  The Governor promised to “rebuild the DNR”.  Now, I didn’t expect this to happen in 10 months, but I did expect the effort to at least get off the ground.  What has really changed at the DNR since the Blago administration ended?  Sadly, the answer is “nothing”. 

To be fair, Director Miller did reach out to constitutents and did convene Conservation Congress last October.  But what has this reaching out really achieved, other than a lot of oratory?  So far we have had 10 months of talk and no action.  The Congress decided that public access, recruitment of anglers and hunters, nature deficit disorder in our children and adults, and lack of funding were the major problems for DNR.  No kidding!  Every state (including Illinois) has recognized these as critical needs for a number of years now.  The Congress made no recommendations on how to solve these very thorny problems.  I don’t know the answers to all these difficult questions either.  But there are several things which I do know for sure. 

1.  You have to manage “efficiently” with the monies and personnel resources you have while addressing the above mentioned long-term needs.  It is neither wise nor efficient to have budget and accounting folks in charge of decisions as to where DNR monetary resources should be spent.  It is an unfortunate fact that this is the way it operates today.  This is like having your favorite auto mechanic perform a needed gall bladder operation for you.  You get bad decisions, bad results and the patient (our Fish and Wildlife Resources) suffers greatly in the process.  Managers with the expertise in conservation are often left on the outside looking in when management directions are decided upon.  Director Miller did not create this mess in DNR…...but my point is that he has not fixed it.

2.  Efficient personnel management is an absolute essential when the Department is so terribly short of staff.  However, with hundreds upon hundreds of critical field position needs out there (to manage the fishery in the local municipal lake or state park; to manage our state-wide wild turkey population; offer critical advice to landowners on how best to manage their timber and natural heritage resources; to clean the toilets, mow the grass, oversee the campgrounds at our State Parks and Conservation Areas; to enforce our Fish and Wildlife rules and regulations, etc.) the unfortunate reality is that the DNR is quite fat at the top.  We have an Assistant Director, an Assistant to the Director, two Deputy Directors and a whole bevy of Office Directors.  Having 23 or more folks attend Executive Staff Meetings is not efficiency, it is a bureacratic “Cluster”.  What does such a huge Executive Staff convey to the rest of the DNR employees in Springfield and in the field who are operating on a skeleton crew level?

To me it says…......YOU ARE NOT IMPORTANT, BUT WE ARE.  There should be no more than an Assistant Director and 5 Office Directors at the Executive Staff level.  Again, Director Miller did not create the monster that is Executive Staff, but he has not corrected this problem either.

So there you have it.  What I want for Christmas is not for our DNR to achieve the impossible in these difficult economic times, rather do what can in fact be done quite easily in the near-term.  That is:

1. Have the budget folks go back to just counting the beans, not deciding how to spend them.  Let the professional conservation managers make those “where the money should be spent” decisions (with input from constituents)...this includes decisions on how to spend new funds which will result from increased hunting and fishing fees next year.

2.Cut a number of Executive Staff positions and utilize the freed-up headcount for hiring of the most needed field folks.

May we all get a “de-clustered” DNR for Christmas!


FROM Eric Samp:

“Hey Jeff,  I just finished reading your article (about the first deer season) and I completely agree.  Half of the people I know and work with never saw any deer all weekend and they were blaming it on the corn.  However the Samp’s had different luck.  We have land down in Fulton Co.  Four of us were hunting the acreage.  We got one 10 pointer Friday AM that green scored around 170+ plus a nice doe.  Then Friday PM we got another smaller 10 pointer.  Saturday AM we got a good sized 7 pointer and then Saturday PM a button buck.  Our corn is still standing on the entire property, but the RUT WAS ON!”

 

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