Saturday, February 12, 2022

Amendment Filed in Illinois General Assembly to Restructure the Natural Resources Advisory Board

As many of you know, the Illinois General Assembly filed a bill in both the House and Senate last week to Abolish NRAB.  When we reached out to the IDNR for comment they did state that an amendment was to be filed.  That amendment would keep the NRAB board intact, and they stated that they want to have the board be more diverse and have it be more aligned with the agency's initiatives.  There is a lot of backstory and opinions regarding this board and issue.  You can read our opinion from when the bill was first filed here. 

If you want to read the amendment language yourself you can find that here.  

Amendment Language

The language in the amendments is identical.  Both pieces of legislation are posted for hearing next week.  

SB 3908 will be heard in the 
Senate State Government Committee on February 16th at 3pm. 

HB 4713 may be heard in the 
House State Government Committee on February 16th at 2pm.  

Next week is Committee Deadline week for the House and there are many bills posted for hearing, so this bill may be called.  However, on the Senate side, as of writing this, this bill is the only thing posted for hearing.  This bill may very well move just from the Senate. 

You can listen to any hearings on the ILGA website.  For the Senate, click here.  For the House, click here.  Keep in mind that the link for the committee will only be up when the committee is currently in action.  The start time may be delayed.  

Once you read the amendments and form your own opinion you can file witness slips here.  This is one step to voicing your opinions regarding this bill.  You can also call or email members of the committees and the sponsors of the bills.  It's important to let them know how the outdoor community feels about this bill.  You can find all contact information on the ILGA website under Senate > Members or House > Members.

If you do not know how to file a witness slip, look back at this past article of ours where we walk you through it step by step. 

Alright, let's dive into this amendment.  Below are some highlights along with our opinions on certain areas. 

Overall Board
First, the amendment does keep the NRAB board intact, however with the amendment the board is essentially stripped of some of it's "power" and "responsibilities" when it comes to season dates, bag limits and grants.  

    Some members of the board were continuously vocal on these areas and the        oversight was a stop-block of sorts.  

With the amendment the board's focus includes areas more aligned with the IDNR.  And it's something that we agree needs to be a part of the overall revamping of the board.  There is much more to the IDNR than hunting, and the board does seem to focus more on this area. 


This is where politics comes into play and this part of the amendment should be of concern to many. 

Currently all board appointments are made by the Governor and then through the NRAB bylaws, the board selects a Chairman.  With this amendment, the Governor would have sole discretion on not only who is the NRAB Chairman, but all the appointments on the board. The amendment states that "Of the 13 appointed members, at least 2 shall represent hunting and fishing interests, 2 shall represent natural areas protection interests, 2 shall represent urban conservation interests, one shall represent parks and recreation interests, and one shall represent forestry interests." 

Although this does "diversify" the board it allows one office sole appointment authority, rather than spreading it out among all the caucuses, similar to how other boards do it.  

If each caucus was able to make an appointment to the board, all varying opinions could be heard.  The make-up of the board could stay the same with all different hunting, outdoor and conservation areas represented, however the appointments would be from both Democrat and Republican aspects of government. 

If the fact that the Governor has sole appointment authority does not frustrate you, this may.  With the amendment, current board members terms expire on August 1, 2022.  And although these members may be reappointed it allows for the Governor to effectively get rid of current members, of which there is disagreement with and start fresh.  That would mean that the current board, of which, from our intel, knowledge etc. the IDNR has a problem with would be relieved of their duties.  What kind of good government is that?  If you can't work with someone, just file a bill to have them removed from their positions.   

And to make good government even better, there is a section in this amendment that would delete a provision that allows for a public meeting prior to grant approvals.  This effectively takes away the transparency when it comes to grants being approved and does not allow for public input at all. 

Without knowing the backstory of the IDNR and the issues with the board, this may look like a simple bill.  The IDNR is going to testify in committee, if they decide to show up this time and tout that they are trying to diversify the board and make the shift for the board to be more aligned with the department's goals and initiatives.   

That is all smoke and mirrors.  They are trying to do away with what they don't like and make it harder for people's voices to be heard. 

The time to stand up and do something is now?  Where are our hunting and fishing organizations on this issue?  How do current NRAB board members feel?  

There is very little discussion being had on this issue and will it be business as usual where this bill just slides on through.  Only time will tell. 

Act NOW - Contact the Sponsors of the Bill.  Contact the committee members.