DNR’s assistant director leaving to rejoin USFWS

Springfield — John Rogner is leaving his post as DNR’s assistant director to return to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Rogner will become coordinator of the federal agency’s Upper Midwest and Great Lakes Landscape Conservation Cooperative, a relatively new initiative that seeks to pool together federal, state, local and non-profit conservation forces.

Rogner’s last day with the DNR is Feb. 15.

Rogner was working on borrowed time. When he joined the DNR in July 2009, it was under a two-year agreement made possible through a federal law that allowed the DNR to borrow Rogner’s services.

At the time, he was supervising the USFWS’s Chicago area field office in Barrington, a post he held since 1998.

Rogner’s term with the DNR had been extended another two years, but that second term was due to expire in June.

Rogner, who holds degrees from Northern Illinois University and was raised in Belvidere, took a leadership role in the state’s efforts to thwart the spread of Asian carp, something he had been already working on with the Fish and Wildlife Service, prior to joining the DNR.

“I think the pathway is pretty well secured,” Rogner said, confident that Asian carp wouldn’t be getting into Lake Michigan via the canal system that has been under the microscope for the last decade after bighead and silver carp invaded the Illinois River.

Rogner said he is proud of his role in establishing the Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge on the Illinois-Wisconsin border, an effort he had first been involved with while still with the Fish and Wildlife Service. He said he expects to play a role in efforts to establish another national wildlife refuge centered around the Kankakee River along the Illinois-Indiana border.

But Rogner said perhaps the most important effort he’s been involved with in his DNR tenure was efforts to get the fiscally-strapped agency headed back in the right direction. DNR had been losing staff to retirements while under a long-time hiring freeze, which was recently lifted after the state legislature passed the Sustainability Bill in late November.

“I think we’ve turned the corner,” Rogner said.

DNR Director Mark Miller praised Rogner’s efforts in a statement.

“Since coming to us from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2009, John has worked hard to share our vision of restoring trust in this agency,” said Miller. “John’s appointment is one example of this administration’s commitment to restoring the professionalism of DNR from the top down and applying science and partnering principles in developing natural resource policies.

“I am grateful for John’s service, hard work and dedication to the agency’s mission and for his ability to apply a Leopoldian land ethic, a strong moral compass, and his unique, exceptional leadership to the work of Illinois DNR. Our relationship with John will continue as he returns to the Service, and we wish him well as he continues his exemplary career.”

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