At the end of Day 4 as newly appointed director of the IDNR, Marc Miller took time for an interview Monday evening.
He was appointed on Thursday, and was all smiles outside Gov. Quinn’s office. The response across the board was so positive that Miller said he was “humbled and honored.”
Then he got down to work the next day in Springfield.
And there’s work to do, as the interview shows.
My questions are in large type, answers indented, even where not direct quotes. I rearranged the questions and answers to flow from the general to those more specific to northeast Illinois.
What do you see as the most pressing need for the IDNR?
I’m hoping that I can get my arms around the personnel issues. To be honest, these fine [natural resource professionals] are holding things together with bailing wire and spit. We need to encourage everybody that there will be a turnaround, and we will see better days. . . . I do believe that. It might not be instantaneous. These people here are telling me what they have been wanting to say for a while, and we are going to work it out together. Miller indicated, obviously, that the IDNR will have to be creative with funding issues, in a number of ways. He also indicated that he needs to get out and meet with the regional officials. For example, he has already heard about some of the law enforcement issues on Lake Michigan. Four days on job, and two were weekend days. I have a lot of work to do to understand the issues.
What is the most important need for the IDNR?
We are going to be working on it from Day 1: Getting more people engaged in outdoor recreation . . . getting children involved. This isn’t something that will be paying off in three months, six months, but in a decade. . . . It is important for the mission of the agency and for future generations. . . . If we don’t get people connected to lands, or parks or a particular activity, we won’t have a future.
When you say science-based decisions, will that be the science of the IDNR biologists or will input from other groups be considered?
There are a lot of resources for science. We will use the best available science at our disposal to guide our decisions. . . . As long as it is good science. . . . Scientific surveys that guide decisions have migrated over to the University of Illinois [a move of the Surveys to the U of I by former Gov. Blagojevich]. We will have to ask for outside help.
Where do you stand on the deer recommendations? particularly some of the extended season proposals for firearms?
Frankly, I need to have more time to look at these. I am getting some good advice. It is a concern that last year’s harvest was in decline, last year’s bucks were in decline. We may need to take a look at trends before making any substantial changes. But for me, this is Day 4, we need to go over this and talk to people. There are going to be two decision I will make that will never make anybody happy: duck hunting and deer hunting. We will do the best we can.
What are the chances of the July closure for yellow perch being lifted? Or at least considered?
I am going to need to look into this. I recognize that is another hot issue we need to take a look at. I do need to talk to some fisheries biologists to give any kind of comment on that.
What are the chances of walleye stocking on the lakefront?
I will have to talk to fisheries biologists. The Great Lakes is a valuable resource. We want to be careful with decisions we make. I want to trust the biologists to recommended courses of action.
What are the chances of adding another daily draw for waterfowling in NE Illinois?
That is an intriguing idea. I will make a note and take a look.
Have you ever fished the Chicago lakefront?
No. It is only a matter of time until the state record smallmouth [bass] is caught there. It will be a real exciting day when we get that one. There will be a lot of buzz when that record is broken.
Do you have any greater vision for Mazonia/Braidwood?
The most direct answer is no. But there are lot of things to consider here. When I suggested I thought it would be a perfect place to try a pilot program for back-country camping, he said it sounded interesting and all ideas are welcome.
Do you have any greater plans for Illinois Beach State Park?
I need to take a look at that one. I will have to take a look at things here.