By LES DAVENPORT
Just when you think the Illinois Department of Natural Resources could not be more negligent with Illinois deer management, they step farther into the abyss that causes deer hunters to despise them. The federal government granted the state of Illinois funds to buy 2,250-acre Buckhorn Unit more than a decade ago. The IDNR’s annual budgets since this purchase have been so menial that Buckhorn’s maintenance has been nearly nonexistent.
Decrepit, dangerous buildings are still standing in this public area. The Buckhorn, however, does provide thousands of resident-only deer hunters, small game hunters, fishermen, mushroom seekers and hikers a great place to enjoy the sights and whispers of nature. This may end soon if Director Marc Miller gets his way!
It is strongly rumored that Miller wants to turn this park into “The Midwest’s Biggest and Best ATV Park.” It’s said that he wishes to draw ATV enthusiasts from all across the Midwest. Most of us would rather see non-residents stay in their own state and tear up their own public land. My guess is there is some politician getting under-the-table money to make this happen. If this does transpire, there’s little doubt that a private concessionaire will ultimately reap (or rape) the profits.
It’s also rumored that the restricted third of 3,300-acre Siloam Springs Park, used for campers and hikers, will now be open to deer hunting. This was a great whitetail sanctuary in an over-hunted area. Worse yet, it’s being considered to lift the cap on non-residents during the four-week rut period. It seems that fewer non-residents showing up at the park is reasoning for this change. Could it be that out-of-staters now realize that Illinois is no longer producing its Midwest share of trophy bucks?
The in-and-out traffic of vehicles and camping trailers coming to a Buckhorn ATV Park will surely boost the cost of maintaining Brown County roadways, which could mean higher property taxes. Camping trailers? Oh yes, Miller is also considering a large camping area for the ATV people. Funny, the IDNR can’t even properly maintain the parks in operation now.
The present IDNR administration is destroying our deer herd; they have not hired an adequate number of wildlife biologists or game wardens; they have not kept some of their own higher-ups ethically in line; they do a less than marginal job of maintaining downstate parks; and yet they can find the resources to build an ATV park. I pity the landowners within five miles of Buckhorn who thought they were leaving behind the noises of the city. The constant BUZZ of ATV exhaust pipes will fill the airways for miles on a quiet day. Hunting in peace and quiet in Buckhorn, or on bordering ground, will be a thing of the past.
No doubt this rumor, that may soon be reality, could have financing semblance to the IDNR “One Natural Resources Way” complex built almost decade and a half ago. Our reputable DNR director at the time, Brent Manning, proposed the building to be purchased by the IDNR with a payoff of 20 years. Governor Edgar approved Manning’s plan to fund the building and own it.
One Natural Resources Way was no more than built when new Democratic Governor Blagojevich took office and sold the building to the Central Management Services, another division of the State. The State now owns this complex and rents it back to the IDNR. So what’s wrong with this arrangement? Those IDNR rent payments go into the General Fund forever, having the potential to not benefit Illinois wildlife. Had the IDNR retained ownership, they would own the building in another half-decade and future rent money would stay in the IDNR’s bank account. I was in this building in February. The building and grounds were poorly kept. Sad deal!
Let’s not let the Buckhorn become an ATV Park. If this does happen, a concessionaire will operate it and no profit will ever benefit Illinois wildlife. Call Senator Sullivan and complain! Call IDNR Director Marc Miller and tell him to put the ATV Park somewhere where the traffic and noise won’t be noticed…Chicago!