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Conservation Corner


In the Public Eye

by Gary Thomas

Most outdoor recreationists in Illinois follow a sound
conservation ethic, but public perception of outdoor
users is at odds with the reality.

A survey on outdoor ethics indicates that many recreationists perceive unethical outdoor behavior to be relatively serious, but that while incidents do occur, the prevalence is less than envisioned.

"Basically, this says the overall ethics of Illinois sportspeople are fairly good, but that the public judges outdoor recreationists by their lowest common denominator," said Conservation Director Brent Manning. "Some outdoor recreationists have an image problem, and this negative perception can become ingrained in the minds of the outdoor-oriented public."

The survey was conducted by the Illinois Outdoor Ethics Board in conjunction with the Department of Conservation to identify and characterize outdoor sportspeople, measure the prevalence and seriousness of unethical outdoor behavior, and to define mechanisms for improving ethical standards in Illinois.

The board was created by Manning in September 1993. Consisting of 17 citizens representing diverse outdoor entities, members were asked to identify outdoor ethics problems, to identify the best ways to change unethical behavior, and to make recommendations for a method of promoting and funding an outdoor ethics program.

"The outdoor ethics survey is the principle means the committee is using to identify the outdoor problems," said Jim Raftis, coordinator of the outdoor ethics program. "It was designed to find out what types of outdoor activities are being enjoyed in Illinois, to identify and characterize the people who participate in these activities, to measure the prevalence and seriousness of unethical behavior and its impact on the state's natural resources, and to define some mechanisms for improving outdoor ethical standards."

The 12-question survey was organized into three parts to find the characteristics of the participants, to find out what type of outdoor activities they take part in, and to discover their opinions and attitudes toward outdoor ethics. The survey was sent to nearly 3,500 people from Illinois' constituency list, participants in Conservation Congress and leaders of outdoor organizations. More than 2,350 people (69%) responded to the survey, and 101 of the state's 102 counties are represented in the findings.

Participants in the survey averaged 49 years of age, were 84% male and 16% female. Fishing, at 64%, was the outdoor activity enjoyed by the most respondents, followed by hiking/jogging/walking at 61%, hunting at 52%, and boating at 50%.

Other types of activities and included: picnicking 48%, camping 44%, birding 37%, swimming 34%, outdoor photography 32%, hiking 28%, ATV riding 12%, cross-country skiing 12%, horseback riding 11%, field trialing 6%, snowmobiling 6%, nature study 3%, shooting 2%, trapping 1%, and competitive archer shooting 0.7%.

"There was, of course, a lot of overlapping of activities," Raftis pointed out. "Anglers who hike, for instance, or campers who also hunt or participate in cross-country skiing."

50 • Illinois Parks & Recreation • March/April 1995

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The survey showed that most participants conduct their outdoor activities in the same region where they live, and that 91% of the participants are active in their county of residence. The survey also indicates that recreationists are not confined to where they live. Only 22% said they did not leave their county of residence to participate in some outdoor activities.

On the average, recreation took place 44% of the time on private lands and 56% on public lands. However, this percentage varied greatly, depending on the type of recreation. Trappers, for instance, said they use private land 88% of the time, while cross-country skiers, at the other end of the spectrum, use private land only 25% of the time when enjoying their sport.

More than half of the hunters, anglers, snowmobilers, ATV riders, field trialers, shooters, archery contestants and trappers were more active on private lands, while more than half of the birders, picnickers, photographers, campers, horseback riders, cross country skiers, swimmers, hikers/joggers/walkers, boaters, bikers and nature studiers were more active on public lands.

Not surprisingly, those surveyed said unethical behavior was observed more frequently on public lands than on private lands. Further, those responding to the survey said they believed that overuse of recreational resources and abuse of natural resources were more serious on public land than on private land. Respondents from DOC's Region 2 (northeast Illinois) reported observing unethical behavior more frequently than those surveyed from other regions.

The survey listed options for improving ethical behavior and asked respondents to rank each of them. They ranked youth education as the number one option. Other options, in order of importance, were adult education, increased media attention, cooperation among outdoor recreation groups, partnerships between outdoor groups and government, and peer pressure as the ones that would be the most effective. Those they considered to be less effective methods to improve ethical behavior included increased law enforcement, increased penalties for violations, publications and printed material, and newer/stricter laws.

"Sportspeople believe something needs to be done to alert others in the state to the outdoor problems we have," Raftis said. "And those surveyed clearly believe that education and more media attention—especially radio and television media—is the key to improving ethical behavior."

Don Swensson, the chairman of the Outdoor Ethics Board, said he saw some real positive things come out of the survey. "It points out a very definite need for some work to be done to improve our outdoor image," he said. "We particularly need to get more educational material out to the public, and to make people more aware of their responsibilities while in the outdoors.

"Hopefully, we're going to be able to use what we have learned and do a better job of educating the public on the problems and pointing out the solutions."

Manning said that now that we know how the public perceives outdoor recreationists, Sportspeople need to work together to determine where problems exist and undertake efforts to resolve them.

"The work being done by the Ethics Board is important to all of us," Manning said. "The members will be making recommendations to the Department of Conservation with the objective of perpetuating the responsible use and enjoyment of Illinois' natural resources by present and future generations."

Copies of the 1994 Illinois Outdoor Ethics Survey are available by writing: Department of Conservation. Office of Natural Resources, 524 South Second Street, Springfield, IL 62701.

Gary Thomas is the editor of OutdoorIllinois. This article is reprinted from the January 1994 issue of the magazine. •

Members of the
Illinois Outdoor Ethics Board

Don Swensson, Conservation Advisory Board
Roman Strzala, Illinois Association of Park Districts
Paul Beinlich, Izaak Walton League
Art Dannenberg, Illinois Bowhunters Society
John Fumagalli, Illinois Waterfowlers Alliance
Elmer Hills, Illinois Wildlife Federation
Jerry Luciano, Safari Club International
Jack Peetz, Prairie State Hunter Education Association
Charles Reardanz, Good Sams RV Owners
James Stewart, Illinois Power Squadrons
Gary Struck, Illinois Environmental Council
Kevin Walker, Illinois State Rifle Association
Mark Walker, Illinois Chapter of BASS
David Walton, Illinois Trappers Association
Robert Zettler, Outdoor Media

Illinois Parks & Recreation • March/April 1995 • 51

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Conservation Education Builds Awareness Level
of Illinois Children, Their Parents and Teachers

by Kathy Andrews

The Illinois Department of Conservation established a Conservation Education Program in 1988. The purpose of the Program is to raise the awareness level of Illinois children, their parents and teachers of the need for preserving, protecting and managing our natural resources.

The program began with the implementation of an at-home club for children in August 1988. Illinois children between the ages of 5 and 13 are eligible for the club. Magazines are sent to the home, with the youngest child between those ages being registered to ensure the greatest enrollment period in the club. The club provides members with free, colorful, periodic magazines, notices about conservation special events, and serves as an excellent communication link between the youth of Illinois and the IDOC.

Each magazine centers around a specific natural resources theme. This feature facilitates use of the magazine in the classroom and with youth groups. Educators and youth group leaders can register for the club, and will receive a magazine at the same time they are mailed to members. Upon receipt of their magazine, adults are reminded to remind children to bring the magazine to school or the youth group meeting for discussion.

The KIDS FOR CONSERVATION™ club concept has been a great success, with over 150,000 member households statewide.

The Illinois Department of Conservation produces a diversity of other conservation and environmental education materials, including a monthly activity page that appears in the Department's publication Outdoor Illinois.

The IDOC has prepared five education kits for distribu- tion to over 4,200 public and private schools registered with the Illinois State Board of Education. Each kit contains a closed-captioned videotape, lesson plans, a two-sided poster and a variety of learning activities. All of the lessons are correlated to the Illinois State Goals for Learning to facilitate use in the classroom.

In November 1993, the Illinois Department of Conservation accepted the administrative responsibility for three national environmental education programs. To receive the activity manuals for each of these environmental education projects, educators and youth group leaders attend a short workshop lead by a trained facilitator.

IDOC Education Kits
Title Grade Level Distributed
Wild Mammals of Illinois K-8 April 1991
KIDS for Trees K-3 April 1992
Illinois Birds3-6February 1993
Resource Conservation7-10September 1994
Aquatic Resources5-9Fall 1996

Project WILD is an interdisciplinary, natural resources education program for grades K-12. It is of value to teachers as well as leaders at camps, parks and nature centers. The focus is on wildlife and wildlife habitats.

WILD Aquatic focuses on water habitats and their unique wildlife. The activities cover ponds, lakes, streams, oceans and more. Students K-12 develop a deep understanding of the issues we face in protecting this limited, vital resource.

Project Learning Tree deals with forestry issues. Students Pre K-12 interact with the natural and social environments. PLT includes dozens of well-designed, easy to use activities.

These projects are sponsored and endorsed by state and regional agencies in education and resource conservation. Key components of these environmental education projects are:

  • They help children acquire the knowledge, skills and commitment they will need as citizens to wisely use natural and cultural resources.

52 • Illinois Parks & Recreation • March/April 1995

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  • They contain hundreds of activities organized in handy guidebooks. Activities provide hands-on learning opportunities for the classroom, school yard and community. Values and ethical dilemmas are demonstrated in simulated games and role playing. Some activities use guide imagery. Many activities focus on involving children in local action projects to assist with community environmental problems.

  • They are supplemented with correlation guides to satisfy many Illinois State Goals for Learning in science, social studies, language arts, fine arts, mathematics and physical development and health.

  • They are supplementary conservation education materials for the local K-12 curriculum.

  • They contain interdisciplinary activities for curriculum integration.

  • They are offered through locally sponsored workshops for teachers and leaders of youth organizations.

In 1993, Illinois premiered the Project WILD Action Grants program. A companion to national Project WILD, the Action Grant Program is based on the idea that students and teachers who have had contact with Project WILD need opportunities to take environmental action. A habitat improvement project can be conducted at a school, or nearby site, through this grant.

Schools, nature centers and youth groups may apply for a Project WILD Action Grant. A trained Project WILD educator or facilitator must be involved with the project. Technical natural resource assistance will be provided for each project funded. Materials such as tree planting stock, seeds and related items will also be sought for distribution to funded projects.

Illinois fifth grade students can participate in the annual Arbor Day poster contest sponsored by the Illinois Department of Conservation and the National Arbor Day Foundation. Based on an annual theme, the contest is designed to assist students develop a better understanding of the need for both old-growth forests and forests managed for wood production, recreation or wildlife preservation. All public and private schools in Illinois receive a copy of the contest information packet about January 1 each year.

The Illinois Department of Conservation sponsors the Federal Junior Duck Stamp Program directed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This Program is a unique conservation education curriculum tailored to students in grades K-12. Public and private school teachers throughout the state can use the curriculum to conduct classroom activities related to wildlife conservation and management topics, wildlife art and philately. Illinois was one of the first three states to sponsor the Program, and we are now entering our fifth year of participation. In 1993, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service initiated a national "Best of Show" award, which was presented to Jason Parsons, the winning Illinois artist.

In closing, it is important to emphasize that Conservation Education is designed to build the awareness level of Illinois' children, their parents and teachers. The program will build more positive attitudes toward our natural resources and will also motivate young people to become good stewards of Illinois' resources. A concerted effort on behalf of all natural resource agencies is necessary to motivate the citizens of Illinois to get involved. Rebuilding must begin with the youth of this state to ensure a brighter future for generations to come!

For further information about these programs contact the Illinois Department of Conservation, Conservation Education, 524 S. Second Street, Springfield, Illinois 62701-1787

Kathy Andrews is the Education Chief for the Illinois Department of Conservation.

Illinois Parks & Recreation • March/April 1995 • 53


Diverse Projects Display Need
for Wildlife Preservation Fund

Songbirds, streams and river otters are the focus of major research projects funded this year by the Wildlife Preservation Fund.

"The Wildlife Preservation Fund is helping us increase our knowledge of animals and plants so the best possible management decisions can be made," Conservation Director Brent Manning said. "Research gathered in these projects should be useful to conservation managers throughout Illinois and the Midwest."

Donations that taxpayers specify on their state income tax forms are used to finance projects that benefit Illinois' native species. Amounts pledged to the Wildlife Preservation Fund on line 15a of state income tax forms, or line 5a of the new state EZ forms,

river otter
Becuase of stocking and relocation programs underwritten
by the Illinois Wildlife Preservation Fund, the river
otter may some day again be a common site in Illinois.

are either deducted from the refund due or added to the amount owed. All donations are tax deductible.

Among projects funded this year is a research project that will explore how restoration of a floodplain ecosystem to enlarge songbird habitat can benefit thrushes, warblers, flycatchers and other species that migrate between North America and the tropics. Migrant songbirds have experienced sharp population declines during the past five years, likely due to forests being fragmented into smaller tracts which harbor nest predators and parasites. With $20,000 in assistance from the Wildlife Preservation Fund, the study will help determine if enlarging habitat by connecting remnants of the Cache River floodplain in southern Illinois can maintain viable populations of migrant songbirds. The study will help determine the minimum area that songbirds require. The results of the study could provide a model for restoration of flood plains and songbird habitat in agricultural areas.

A project that will develop new management strategies for Illinois streams, using central Illinois' Mackinaw River as a model, is receiving a $10,000 award from the Wildlife Preservation Fund. While stream management efforts in the past have been piecemeal, this project will use an "ecosystem management" approach that considers the watershed as a whole so restoration and protection efforts can be directed where they can best benefit the stream's entire length. Following collection and analysis of data, the project will make management practices recommendations available to landowners, including practical ways to control sediment in the watershed. Restoration and protection strategies learned from the two-year project on the Mackinaw will be applied to other streams.

An $8,100 award from the Wildlife Preservation Fund and a matching grant from the state Furbearer Fund will be used to purchase 30 additional otters for Illinois' river

54 • Illinois Parks & Recreation • March/April 1995


Mackinaw River

The Mackinaw River will be the model for the new management strategies project/or Illinois streams through a $10,000 award from the Wildlife Preservation Fund. Restoration and protection strategies learned from the two-year project will be applied to other streams.

otter restoration program. A three-year restoration effort for the state endangered species began a year ago, when wild turkeys from Illinois were traded for river otters supplied by Kentucky. Following the trade, 50 otters were released along the Wabash River basin in southwestern Illinois. Combining purchased otters with 50 others obtained in the trade agreement this year will allow otters to be released at four sites rather than two sites, with an even number of males and females, and will allow the restoration effort to begin in the Kaskaskia River basin. The objective is to restore river otter populations to viable levels in Illinois.

Illinois' unique Natural Areas Inventory will be updated this year with the help of $6,000 from the Wildlife Preservation Fund. When it was completed in 1978, the study recorded the state's finest natural areas and most critical endangered species habitat. A total of 1,089 significant natural areas worthy of preservation were known to exist in Illinois at that time, but since then, more than 350 additional sites have been discovered and designated, with the vast majority containing habitat for endangered species. The project involves field work to accurately document the significant natural features of newly designated savannas in the northern half of the state in order to support their inclusion on the inventory. It also will determine final boundaries for the areas so they can be mapped.

Using $5,000 from the Wildlife Preservation Fund, researchers will attempt to determine if pesticide residues could be contributing to recent population declines of the loggerhead shrike—sometimes called the butcher bird for the way it impales prey on thorns. Listed as threatened in Illinois because of rare occurrences in the upper two-thirds of the state, the loggerhead shrike is most numerous in southern Illinois, but even there its numbers appear to be declining. Researchers plan to collect 50 eggs from specific nests in 15 southern Illinois counties. The collection will not significantly affect shrike productivity or nest success. Eggs will be analyzed for traces of pesticides and results will be compared to similar studies conducted in the 1970s to help determine what role, if any, pesticide residues might play in reduced fledgling and adult survival rates.

A 3 1/2-day workshop to show how to modify traditional wetland management practices to help accommodate the feeding and resting needs of migrating shorebirds received $3,100 in funding from the Wildlife Preservation Fund. Shorebirds need to use wetlands as stopover points as they migrate to and from their southern wintering homes and their northern breeding grounds. However, many wetlands that once existed in Illinois no longer remain, and management practices at existing wetlands often fail to have the food and habitat that shorebirds need.

In addition to contributions made at tax time, donations to the Illinois Wildlife Preservation can be made directly by sending a check payable to the fund in care of the Department of Conservation, Division of Natural Heritage, 524 S. Second St., Springfield, IL 62701-1787. •

Illinois Parks & Recreation • March/April 1995• 55

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