The merger... will enable the Department of Natural Resources to complete more of the objectives, to conserve natural resources and provide public recreation opportunities into the 21st century.
During his State of the State address to the Illinois General Assembly earlier this year, Governor Jim Edgar announced measures to make state government leaner and more effective.
The Governor said he was creating the Department of Natural Resources by merging several existing natural resources agencies. Through this merger, the Governor pointed out, the Department will have more tools to protect, enhance and responsibly use the state's natural resources.
In March, Governor Edgar signed an Executive Order to put his reorganization of state government into motion. The order, in part says:
"Natural resources are integral to the state's economy and quality of life. It is a priority of the Edgar administration to protect and restore Illinois natural resources for present and future generations. We live in a complex and changing world, and if we are indeed going to protect our valuable natural resources far into the future, we must ensure that the natural resources management and policy decisions we make today are based on a strong scientific foundation and the best information available.
"Furthermore, we need to take advantage of new communication and computer technologies to expand and enhance our dialogue with the public, so that they have easy access to both the scientific information and to the policy-making process itself."
By this Order, Governor Edgar combined the Department of Conservation, the Department of Mines and Minerals, most of the Department of Energy and Natural Resources, the Abandoned Mined Lands Reclamation Council and the Department of Transportation's Division of Water Resources into a new super agency named the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
Historically, objectives of the Conservation Department have been to conserve, preserve and manage the renewable natural resources of the state; and to provide high quality outdoor recreational experiences for a diverse constituency.
A mission statement developed last year defined the Conservation Department's mission as follows: "To demonstrate leadership in the management of the natural resources of Illinois through education, protection, restoration, enhancement and responsible use to preserve ecological value, to provide compatible outdoor recreational opportunities and to promote a high quality of life for the citizens we serve—present and future."
The mission statement is strong, but the merger of the natural resources agencies will enable the Department of Natural Resources to complete more of the objectives, to conserve natural resources and provide public recreation opportunities into the 21st century.
The new agency will have about 2,250 employees—most of which will be field-based. The staff will be headquartered in eight buildings in Springfield, plus numerous field locations throughout the state.
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources will continue the tradition of protecting and conserving precious natural resources, but from a broader perspective. The scientific surveys—Natural History, Water and Geological—from the Department of Energy and Natural Resources will complement the work offish and wildlife biologists, foresters and other specialists.
Inclusion of Mines and Minerals and the Abandoned Mined Lands Reclamation Council will broaden the scope of the new agency's conservation efforts, while the addition of the Office of Water Resources will work in concert with other factions of the new department to intelligently manage development on and along the state's many streams and rivers.
"By combining the various agencies, the Governor has created a new dimension to conservation policy in Illinois," IDNR Director Brent Manning says. "Because the reorganization combines common disciplinary functions, it also will make the Department of Natural Resources more efficient.
"If Water Resources can provide some of its technical expertise to a water-
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fowl project, then we're going to ask for that expertise. If our fish and wildlife expertise can provide some natural resource planning to Mines and Minerals or Abandoned Mined Lands Reclamation that they would not have had before, we'll do that."
Manning says the cooperation and overlap among disciplines will continue and expand.
"There's a lot of hand in glove applications in this," Director Manning says. "For example, the Illinois Natural History Survey is doing genetic research on fish species located in different geophysical parts of the country. From the results of that research, they'll be able to tell us which genetic strains will work best for stocking in Illinois waters."
The consolidation also will streamline bureaucracy.
"The Division of Water Resources has the ability to regulate and manage streams and river systems," Manning said. "Prior to this, we worked in an advisory capacity with them. Now we're parts of the same agency. That not only streamlines the process, it enhances it by bringing to it greater efficiency, greater knowledge and a better scientific basis from all disciplines—not just engineering, but biology and other fields."
The creation of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources ensures that Illinois will be better positioned to take a long-term and holistic approach to meet the challenges of natural resource management as we move into the 21st century.
Another important source of input for the Department—the Conservation Congress—will also continue its function of providing constituent ideas and goals. Most day-to-day operations and programs that occurred under the DOC, as well as the regulatory functions of the DOC, Mines and Minerals and the Division of Water resources, will continue.
A change, which was recommended by Conservation Congress and which has already been implemented, is the establishment of a Division of education. This division includes Kids for Conservation, teacher training programs, park interpreters, the Public Events section and the boating, snowmobiling and hunting safety programs.
Education is now part of the Office of Land Management and Education. Manning said this was done because site superintendents and site interpreters are well-suited to deliver the Department's educational programs. The same holds true for Public Events, he said, because most of the Department's events are held on its own properties.
The Education program transferred to Land Management from the Office of Resource Marketing & Education, which has been retitled to Office of Public Services and contains the new Division of Constituent Services as well as Marketing, Publications and Photographic Services.
Also migrating from one office to another is the Division of Environmental Impact Analysis, renamed Impact Review Coordination, which moved from the Office of Natural Resources Management to the new Office of Realty and Environmental Planning. This office also houses Planning, Energy and Environmental Research and Land Acquisition.
Natural Resources Management retains the Divisions of Fisheries, Wildlife, Forest Resources and Natural Heritage.
The Office of Planning and Development has been renamed Office of Capital Development. It retains Engineering and Grant Administration, but transferred Land Acquisition and Planning to the Office of Realty and Environmental Planning.
Other new operational offices include the Office of Water Resources, which includes Administrative Services, Program Development, Water Resource Planning, Water Resource Management, and Project Implementation; the Office of Mines and Minerals, which is home to Abandoned Mined Lands Reclamation, Mine Safety and Training, Land Reclamation, and Oil and Gas Research; and the Office of Scientific Research and Analysis, which includes the Water, Natural History and Geological surveys, the Hazardous Waste Center and the State Museum.
Director Manning said the State Museum was shifted to the DNR primarily because of its research programs. "The Museum considers itself, and I consider it, a research facility," he said.
"There definitely will be more changes coming," Manning continued. "This is a very dynamic process. We should evolve into a better agency. What we're doing is taking the first steps. We're looking for those things that make the most sense on the surface, but as things start to change we're going to see more and more opportunity start to develop. It's already starting to happen. There's synergism starting to develop between the various offices."
44 • Illinois Parks & Recreation • July/August 1995
Sam S. Manivong, Illinois Periodicals Online Coordinator