‘Fortitude’ required to rebuild DNR
Springfield — A pair of respected former DNR officials are speaking up in hopes that the struggling agency can be pulled out of a decade-long fiscal free fall.
Addressing the issue separately, both Brent Manning and Mike Conlin concluded that the main ingredient needed to turn DNR around is, simply put, guts.
“There has to be someone stand up and make some tough decisions,” Manning, who was DNR director from 1995 until 2003, said. “Ignoring the current difficult challenges and issues could lead to the agency’s disappearance. What it takes is some intestinal fortitude.”
Conlin, long-time head of DNR’s fisheries division who retired in 2009 as head of the Office of Resource Conservation, made the same analysis while delivering a speech to the Illinois American Fisheries Society meeting at Starved Rock State Park Lodge.
Referring to DNR and its refusal to restore its once-proud fisheries program, Conlin offered, “As difficult as it is presently for our professional fisheries folks, challenges laying in wait around the corner in the fisheries arena . . . will require even more courage and intestinal fortitude of folks if they are to achieve and hang on to their professionalism.”
Both trained biologists and avid sportsmen, Manning and Conlin were part of a golden area at DNR. Under Gov. Jim Edgar, the 1990s was a period when other states looked to Illinois DNR as a model.
The pair join many of the state’s other hunters and anglers on the sideline as DNR faces big cuts in the 2013 state budget. Agency services are likely to be curtailed. And state parks and public sites could be forced to cut back services.
DNR’s budget will take a 13 percent budget cut, which is deeper than the 10 percent DNR Director Marc Miller pointed to during a public meeting in early February.
The number of DNR employees, currently at about 1,300, is expected to decline to 1,150 next year. A decade ago DNR employed more than 2,200 people.
Conlin, like Manning, did not hide his passion about the condition DNR has found itself in.
“As I stand here today, there are only two things that I know for sure: the first is that hip boots leak only in cold water. The second is that the Division of Fisheries is in a world of hurt,” Conlin said.
Manning offered that DNR needs to establish new revenue sources, such a dedicated sales tax similar to what Missouri enjoys.
Read all of Conlin’s speech at outdoornews.com/links.
Read more about Manning’s thoughts in the next issue of Illinois Outdoor News.