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Recent entries


Through the Lens

BirdNote Offers
 Free Resources for Educators

Wed, March 22, 2017

I was really happy to see this announcement in my inbox this morning. Not only is it a great resource for educators, homeschoolers, volunteers, it’s also excellent for all of us who consider ourselves life long learners. What a wonderful way to enhance those outdoor adventures with the wee ones in your life!

SEATTLE, WA – BirdNote is a two-minute public radio program that’s heard by millions of people throughout the world every day. We’re pleased to announce the official launch of a web page full of resources for educators, homeschoolers, and lifelong learners. Share the joy of birds, birding, and conservation with curious students of any age. You’ll find it at Tune Kids In to Nature.


For 12 years, BirdNote has been educating and inspiring people to care about birds and nature. Now, teachers have an easy way to use BirdNote stories in the classroom. Starting today, free educational content is available, including:
• Links to more than 75 stories, organized by grade level, topic, and Next Generation Science Standards topics
• Lesson plans - Nine plans for age-specific groups in K-12 classrooms, which meet a variety of NGSS and Common Core state standards
• Photos, videos, and nest- and feeder-cams to inspire students
• Access to BirdNote’s archive of nearly 1,400 stories, suitable for science, language arts, social studies, geography, and other classes.

Tune Kids In to Nature is designed to be a convenient source of content and creativity for educators of all kinds. BirdNote is an ideal teaching tool, with compelling stories, photos, and videos about the intriguing habits of birds. Rich in sound, imagery, and information, the stories pique curiosity and cultivate better listening skills, too.

“We’re excited to offer these free resources to educators. Because BirdNote stories are fun and fascinating, they inspire listeners of all ages to care about the natural world. We hope educators will use two minutes of BirdNote as a springboard for a wide variety of subjects. Then we invite them to report back to us and share their ideas. We’re eager to make the Tune Kids In to Nature project an ever-increasing resource for teachers,” said Sallie Bodie, BirdNote’s executive director.



IDNR to Test-Launch New White-tailed Deer Website

Tue, March 14, 2017

SPRINGFIELD, IL – White-tailed deer are an integral part of the Illinois landscape, and a new website will provide up-to-date information on deer biology, management, research and regulations.  A random set of Illinois deer hunters and landowners will receive an e-mail invitation this week to assist with finalizing the new White-Tailed Deer Illinois website.
White-tailed Deer Illinois is a collaborative effort led by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) Division of Wildlife Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration, and the National Great Rivers Research and Education Center. Funding for the White-tailed Deer Illinois website was made available through Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Project W-147-T.
White-tailed Deer Illinois is a digest of biological information and interesting facts to provide users with valuable insights into the life history and management of the Illinois state mammal. The site also contains information on white-tailed deer stakeholder groups (hunters, landowners, wildlife watchers and more), how deer hunting regulations are set, and deer depredation and deer population control permits. Scientific research activities related to deer and deer hunting are also presented.
Several features of the site will, for the first time, provide users with levels of information previously unavailable. Users will have access to a searchable database of deer-vehicle accidents, and will be able to plot accidents on a state road map by year (2002-2012), month and day.
A second searchable database will allow users to search IDNR annual deer harvest data and Illinois Department of Transportation annual deer-vehicle accident (DVA) rate data. The user may select the county and a range of years (from 1989 to the present), and view an image displaying both the total deer harvest and annual DVA information.
White-tailed Deer Illinois also features an online form for reporting sick and diseased deer. This process will greatly speed the collection and tracking of potential incidence of Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) and Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD).
Information collected from hunters and landowners during this review process will be used to finalize the website, with release to the public anticipated to occur by April 1, 2017


Fiddling While DNR Burns

Mon, March 06, 2017

Over the course of the last several weeks I have been slogging through a ton of paperwork related to the possible loss of Illinois’ share of the Pittman Robertson and Dingell Johnson funds.  It’s not something that many realized could be a possible unintended consequence of the budget impasse.

I first wrote about the issue on this blog post. http://heartlandoutdoors.com/gretchen/story/lesser_known_consequences_of_the_budget_impasse/

Here we are, -  a full nine months down the road from that original blog post, and the situation remains unchanged. Unchanged to the point some monies have been already been placed in “reversion” status. That means that essentially those dollars go back to the feds for redistribution among the states – states plural.

As is common with many federal grants, there’s a use it or lose it rule of some sort. Per communication from USFWS, “The IL DNR has been given limited budget/spending authority by the State which prevents them from providing their required match for each grant per Federal regulations.
USFWS explained the reversion process as follows:
A safety margin is established at the beginning of each Federal Fiscal Year which is equivalent to the total current dollars obligated in the prior Federal Fiscal Year.  When a grant project is completed and if there are unused federal funds from that grant, the unused amount is deobligated.  The deobligated amount is filtered through each years’ safety margin beginning with the Federal fiscal year the funding was originally obligated.  This amount is also deducted from each year’s safety margin, reducing the safety margin by that amount.  If the State has an adequate safety margin, 100% of the funding is returned to the State for use in new projects.  If the State was not able to obligate enough Federal dollars in any given year, then the unused funding will revert (returned to Washington Headquarters to be re-allocated across all states in the next Federal fiscal year).

Last week I had a rather long and drawn out piece prepared, I had worked with several conservation organizations to contact their legislators and request that this pass-through spending be authorized.  It could be done as a separate spending/appropriation bill and would allow approximately 35 approved projects to move forward. It could prevent the possible closure of the Wildlife Research Lab at SIU. It could keep multiple research, fisheries, and land management projects going.

Then, I was heartened to see during last weeks “Grand Bargain “debates that these dollars were specifically addressed in SB0006; amendment 3. The bill passed – so I began to breathe a sigh of relief for about a nanosecond until I realized that this specific appropriation bill for the remainder of FY2017 (sort of another stop gap spending plan since the other expired on December 31, 2016) was tied to the Grand Bargain package and by the looks of things as the days unfolded, we are no closer than ever to having appropriations for these funds.

I must wonder if we shouldn’t go back to pressuring legislators to issue a spending authority for these pass-through funds – separate from the Grand Bargain package.
IL cannot afford to just throw away an average of 23mil in federal funding each year. DNR has been constantly decimated for the last 10 plus years and this sure doesn’t help that situation any.

These dollars may seem like chump change when we consider the bill back log as of Friday, was $12,030,034,006.20. But seriously, it’s just fiscal madness to let this money end up being reverted or lost because our legislators can’t come to terms on a budget or spending plan.

I for one am not willing to let excise taxes I paid to the federal government, specifically earmarked for the Pittman Robertson and Dingell Johnson Funds, specifically allocated to our DNR by the USFWS be tossed aside and lost in this grand mess we have found ourselves in.

Personally, I think it’s time for the sportsmen and women of IL to begin calling on legislators and asking to have a separate standalone spending authority for these funds issued.  Unless DNR spends the money, then bills the USFWS program for those expenditures – there exists a very real possibility those dollars will be lost.

I don’t know about the rest of the Heartland community, but I say it’s time to stop the madness when it comes to our DNR’s funding. 


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