With the election of Bruce Rauner as governor of Illinois, a new Director of the DNR has been appointed. I had met the previous director, Mark Miller a number of times and I had hoped he'd be staying on but like all government appointed jobs, once a regime change occurs, the current director is given the boot.
Illinois now has a new director, Wayne Rosenthal. Wayne unlike Mark Miller who is a biologist, could be considered an administrator with a passion for conservation. He owns a farm, is an avid hunter and will be working to rebuild and restore the deer hunting in Illinois. Which at the time of Brent Manning was considered one of the best in the country with a large number of trophy whitetail being harvested.
I'm not sure of what he thinks of fishing, nor have I met him personally so I sent an email to the offices of the DNR with several questions about what his plans were for the Illinois watershed. I'll wait and see what he says.
Illinois isn't known for its fishing aside from Lake Michigan. Our rivers were highly polluted and while that is changing, I don't know of too many people who consider Illinois as a fishing destination. Although we have some very good places to fish down south, there still isn't much management and I am hoping that the new appointment will address some of these issues. Perhaps Wayne will appoint a fishing czar, and this time someone who is a biologist and fishes but who understands how to preserve, protect and renew fisheries as well as work in harmony with groups like Trout Unlimited and the Smallmouth Bass Alliance. Groups that promote volunteer participation and help maintain and promote our fisheries.
The previous head of fisheries was asked to resign after taking sick-leave to fish in bass tournaments. Which I'm okay with as long as I'm not paying the tab.
You might ask what any of this has to do with fly fishing? If you want to be able to wade on a particular body of water and not be accused of trespassing, if you want to see a trout stream in Illinois, if you want clean water and a healthy and growing fishery, then many of these decisions are made at the state level and whomever is there, can make a difference. If the DNR is decimated, if it is poorly run, then everyone who fishes, hunts or uses the outdoors is affected. Illinois has faced problems with poaching, with water sheds being poisoned, and with animal populations going out of control. With a strong DNR, one that works with sportsmen and organization, everyone will benefit, including the state.
Here is a note from the new Director:
I hope you will grant me a few moments to introduce myself. My name is Wayne Rosenthal, and I am the new Acting Director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. I hope to have the opportunity to meet and talk with many of you over the coming months as we work together to manage and protect our precious natural resources.
During my first few weeks at IDNR, I have met many of the dedicated staff members that make this agency strong. I look forward to visiting our Illinois State Parks and other IDNR offices to meet more of our staff and hear first-hand about their accomplishments and concerns.
My passion is conservation. As many of our IDNR employees will tell you, I love to talk about my farm and the conservation practices I have put on the ground during the past 20-plus years. I also created the Wild Rural Park Hunting and Fishing Preserve, to provide opportunities for young hunters.
Before being appointed to this position by Gov. Bruce Rauner, I was a member of the Illinois House of Representatives since 2011. I also served in the Illinois Air National Guard for 30 years, retiring as a Brigadier General. I commanded hundreds of officers, non-commissioned officers and enlisted personnel. With that responsibility was a budget of $15 million and military assets worth $500 million. That experience, I believe, has prepared me well to lead IDNR’s 16 divisions.
I live in central Illinois, hailing from Morrisonville. My roots in the community run deep. I have been a trustee on the Lincoln Land Community College Board, and a member of my local school board, the Morrisonville Community Unit School District. I also served on the Macoupin County Soil and Water Conservation District Board.
My first priorities as IDNR Director will be to strengthen our customer service and responsiveness to your concerns and questions. We also will get to work promoting the state’s recreational assets to attract tourism and the dollars it brings in to the state. These are tough economic and budget times. Together, I believe we can make things better. I am looking forward to working with all of you.