Springfield – DNR has vehemently denied allegations in a report
by the Illinois Policy Institute that claims the agency is
“misappropriating millions of dollars that should have been
earmarked for the state’s sportsmen.”
In late October, the Institute – a nonpartisan research and
education organization that employs investigative reporters –
released a statement accusing DNR of using funds provided by
hunters and anglers to cover expenses “far from the intent of the
federal law overseeing those funds.” Investigators with the
Institute said they looked closely at millions of dollars being
spent in recent years under the Pittman-Robertson Act, which
authorizes an 11 percent tax on guns, ammunition and fishing
equipment to fund and promote sportsmen’s pursuits.
According to the Institute, DNR is funneling the funds to two
state universities for studies on foraging by mute swans and ways
to better count ground squirrels.
“In addition, DNR also used the funds to convert paper documents
into an electronic format, maintain websites and poll the public on
policies and regulations.”
The Institute also pointed to contracts awarded to a University
of Illinois researcher who received more than $750,000 to
“determine attitudes of hunters, trappers and other stakeholders
likely to affect wildlife populations.”
In response to the claims, DNR sent out its own statement,
strongly denying the Institute’s assertions.
“The Department of Natural Resources strongly disagrees with the
report’s findings,” the statement from DNR Director Marc Miller
read. “All projects funded by the Pittman-Robertson Act must first
be approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure
compliance with program rules and guidelines. Pittman-Robertson Act
funds are used primarily for the restoration and management of
wildlife populations, as well as running the agency’s hunting
DNR’s response concluded, “Funds used for research, surveys and
information technology help DNR better tailor programs to meet the
needs of sportsmen, and of the greater public who benefit from our
According to Lee Williams, an investigative reporter with the
Institute, DNR provided only partial information from an
open-records request by the Institute and then refused to explain
and answer questions about the spending.
Williams said the Institute is calling on DNR to explain where
the money is going. He said an audit by the federal government
published this summer indicated that DNR received 73 grants
totaling nearly $39 million in Pittman-Robertson Act funds between
July 1, 2007, and June 30, 2009. The Institute reported it hasn’t
seen an ac-counting for all of that funding.
“The DNR is committed to transparency and accountability, and we
are proud of the work that our trained professionals do in managing
habitat and wildlife populations on behalf of sportsmen across the
state,” DNR said in its statement.