Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Illinois Waterfowl Groups and Hunters Meet to Discuss Unified Message to JCAR and IDNR

Waterfowl organizations along with the President of the Illinois Federation Outdoor Resources (IFOR) and other members met at the Migratory Waterfowl Hunters Inc. (MWH) building in Alton, Illinois to discuss the proposed rule changes regarding waterfowl blind material. This proposed rule is currently in front of JCAR with the possibility of a vote being taken on August 14th. JCAR is ‘a bipartisan legislative oversight committee authorized to conduct systematic reviews of administrative rules for state agencies.’ To fully understand the gravity of the issue at hand, you should know about the JCAR process.

View from a waterfowl blind
The rulemaking process starts when an agency (the DNR is this case) submits a rule change to the Secretary of State’s Office where it is published in the Illinois Register. During the First Notice period, the public is able to submit comments to the DNR related to the specific rule. And it is at this time that the agency should also be reaching out to waterfowl hunters that will be affected by this rule change to gather insight. You can read how the IDNR Failed to Address Waterfowl Hunters Regarding Proposed Rule Changes at Blind Drawings Across the State and to also see the amount of public comments that were received during this time.

When the DNR is ready to submit their proposed rule changes to JCAR they file a Second Notice. The Second Notice (JCAR170590-1804286r02) was released last week by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and was sent to JCAR. This proposed rule change is now posted for a hearing and it has many waterfowl hunters upset. Why, you may ask! It comes down to process and input.

John Gineris, President of Migratory Waterfowlers started the meeting talking about the history of this rule change. “The DNR began the proposal process in September and discussion began during the First Notice period. During that time, the board made some changes and a letter was written to the DNR related to those changes. And, after months of not hearing word from the DNR, we find out last Monday that a rewrite has been proposed and is now on Second Notice and being sent to JCAR.” he stated.

These groups worked with the IDNR for nearly five months on materials and other details and they were completely ignored after the First Notice period.

Scott Bryant President of the IFOR stated that "the DNR sent us a list of the acceptable material and when the Ad Rule Change came out and it was written and sent to JCAR absolutely nothing that we agreed upon of the accepted stuff that they told us was on there or even the stuff that was not acceptable material was not written into the law”.

Many other members voiced their disappointment with how the DNR is handling this administrative rule process and feel that their voices are not being heard. Requests for meetings have gone unanswered and organizations have had to resort to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and unfortunately even those have gone unanswered.

Some of the other concerns related to this rule change are due to material changes, inconsistency with the rules, safety and many others.

“You can not make a rule that covers the entire state because what will be good for Anderson Lake, may not be good for us down here” said John Gineris. The Mississippi River Valley has blind allotments for three years and according to the proposed rule changes those would need to be taken down every year.

And let’s not forget about the state blinds at Sangchris.  Will those need to be taken down as well or will they get some sort of exemption because they are owned by the state. Sites like Mazonia/Braidwood which has permanent blinds that have been in the same location for over 20 years, now will have to tear those down. To tear them down will cause erosion and further damage to land and habitat. These blinds have been known to be used as nesting grounds for geese and homes for muskrats and other aquatic life.

“There is inconsistency in what they put forward," Glenn Sanders President of of the MVHFA stated. “In the rule there is a list of material and in their fact sheet there is a whole other list, so the hunter doesn’t really know what he/she can or can’t do.”

The Mississippi Valley Hunters and Fishermen's Association (MVHFA) was founded in 1914 and with over 1100 members has been the primary advocate for sportsmen in the Tri-State area, so when they voice concern to the DNR they should have some standing.

Just last weekend at the waterfowl drawing at Mazonia/Braidwood, some newly drawn blind builders received notification that they would need to use metal pipe sub structure during the building of thier blinds. Does this mean that certain sites can have certain rules related to material or is this another example of the inconsistency and lack of communication within the DNR?

And again the problem isn’t necessarily all the material, it is the fact that some material that are needed to make blinds safe and sound are not acceptable under this proposed rule and if the DNR took the time to talk with these organizations they would know that. For example, a metal pipe sub structure blind makes it safer for everyone.

“We can work with the some of the materials listed,” Mr. Gineris stated, “however we need certain materials to make a permanent duck blind.” Permanent duck blind means that it can sustain weather and wear and tear. These blinds are used by people both young and old and they need to be safe.

The environmental concern related to debris in the waterways from these blinds is valid, however waterfowl hunters have been stewards of the outdoors, continuously managing the sites and taking care of the grounds.  Unfortunately, a few bad apples are making the entire hunting community look as if they do not care about the environment and that is just false.

Over the course of the evening, many concerns were raised, points made and details discussed and these major waterfowl groups came to consensus on the next step and the overall message that they want to convey to JCAR, the DNR and the outdoor community. 
'Waterfowl Organizations support the concept of making sure that hunters leave the hunting areas in good shape and we want to be environmental stewards, however we disagree with the way that this process has been handled. We feel that the department needs to go back and meet with the groups and get further input from the people that are actually out there using the area. We are asking the JCAR members to NOT adopt this as a rule until further discussions take place between the DNR and Waterfowl Groups. We want our voices to be heard during this process.'
If you are a waterfowler and you feel as if your voice was not heard throughout this process contact JCAR to stop this rule from being passed.

Send your comments/concerns to

Share this article on your social media accounts and tag these members. They need to hear your voices!

We have reached out to the DNR asking questions related to this process and the proposed rule changes and as of the completion of this article have not received a response. 

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