Throwing away the key: Locking down the slide in the IDNR

SHARE Throwing away the key: Locking down the slide in the IDNR

Some of the impacts on the diminishing funds and manpower in the Illinois Department of Natural Resources are deceptive, such as this seemingly serene scene of green tunnels along the biking trail at Kankakee River State Park; that’s bush honeysuckle bringing death to native flora.
Credit: Dale Bowman

In a goose pit last fall conversation swirled, as conversations do in a pit, to the Lockbox constitution amendment, approved by 80 percent of Illinois voters.

I bitched about one unintended consequence (I think it was unintended). It could cost the Illinois Department of Natural Resources $30 million annually (full impact has yet to be determined).

Guide Jeff Norris said, “If a bridge is falling down, no one is going to care about a closed state park or two.’’

My first instinct was to emit a Blazing Saddlesesque “Harrumph!’’ Truth is Norris was right on.

That gnawed at me until I did my own list of priorities for state monies.

First: social services. Civilized people take care of each other first. Second, education. Maybe higher for me because three of our four kids are still in school or college. Third, housing. Civilized people take care of each other. Fourth, transportation. I say transportation because it should include more than special-interest backed road-building. Fifth, natural resources. Civilized people take care of other life forms. Sixth, the arts. Civilized people take care of creativity.

I would love to move natural resources and the arts higher. I can’t. I just can’t.

At the same time, state monies are not a zero-sum game. There are federal monies specifically allocated for natural resources. There is income for natural resources from licenses, stamps and other fees.

I understand belt-tightening in these times. But in natural resources, we approach annihilation.

Sunday I wrote about the slide in Illinois’ division of fisheries because it is easier to dramatically document with figures.

Less easy to document, but probably more impactful, is the slide in infrastructure and usage at our state lands. That’s everything from nuts and bolts–equipment unrepaired, picnic tables falling apart, trails/bridges/camping areas uncared for or closed–to loss of public services–the decline in naturalists, foresters and biologists.

There are less obvious impacts.

Kankakee River State Park is my park. I average once a month there.

Bush honeysuckle rapidly takes over, pushing out native plants. If you walk or bike the trails, they are beautiful green tunnels. But they’re green tunnels of death for native and diverse flora.

To fix it would take time, effort.

I am frustrated.

But I also understand that crisis is time to re-evaluate how we allocate.

What is important? What can we do?

First pressure state legislators on the IDNR, on passage of a budget. Don’t allow them to wiggle away with the excuse of Gov. Bruce Rauner or House speaker Michael Madigan.

Do more than bitch on social media. Do the work of contacting your state legislators. To figure out your state rep or state senator, go to

IN MEMORY: Kenneth H. Gortowski, 85, died Sunday night. He was a faithful reader, in part because his son Kenneth W. often contributed fishing/life reports. The wake for Mr. Gortowski, more golfer than fisherman, will be 3-9 p.m. today, Jan. 18, at Parkside Chapels, 5948 S Archer Ave, Chicago.

HUNTING: I will post deer harvest numbers online when the final ones for the 2016-17 seasons come in.

STRAY CAST: Joe Maddon keeps talking about the final innings of Game 7 like a fisherman who had the biggest muskie of his life come unhooked in the net; only the fisherman usually admits he was more lucky than skilled in the moment.

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