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New fee on license plates will support IDNR

Rachel BrandSchlesinger Lindenhurst their young sMaddux hang out aquarium Bass Pro Shop Gurnee Mills.

Rachel and Brandon Schlesinger of Lindenhurst, and their young son Maddux, hang out at the aquarium at Bass Pro Shop at Gurnee Mills.

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Bass pro shop to salute local heroes on Dec. 9

Rachel and Brandon Schlesinger of Lindenhurst, and their young son Maddux, hang out at the aquarium at Bass Pro Shop at Gurnee Mills. On Sunday, Dec. 9, the store is holding a special event from 7-10 p.m. to honor the heros all around us: police officers, firefighters, paramedics, war veterans, soldiers and military personnel. Special activities, discounts and drawings are just for them on this special night. They can shop and get 10 percent off with free gift wrapping, and kids can make an owl ornament for the tree at home. A special ornament honoring Local Heros will be given to the first 100 who can show proper identification at 7 p.m. at Santa’s Wonderland exhibit inside the store.

Updated: January 2, 2013 6:08AM

This week, the Illinois Senate passed a bill that will provide some funding for a starved Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Essentially, a $2 fee has been tacked onto the license-plate fee that will raise $20 million to $32 million for the IDNR.

They will be required to put half into construction projects and other half into staffing and programs. Good news to be sure. Except ...

Except that the state agency has an estimated $750 million in needed repairs to the 324 state-owned or leased state parks, fish and wildlife areas, state forests, state trails, natural areas and other recreational sites.

Back in 2009, Governor Patrick Quinn undid some damage that former Gov. Rod Blagovich did when he raided $9.5 million in six dedicated sportsman accounts, putting into jeopardy some $16 million in federal matching funds.

Blago was the black hole of governors when it comes to the outdoors. It was under his watch that funding was cut from $130 million to just $60 million in just six years. It’s now down to $48 million a year. It went from having 2,600 employees to 1,200.

You may remember a few summers ago when a wind blast toppled trees all over tIllinois Beach State Park up near Zion. They didn’t have enough manpower to do anything except close large portions of the park. It took emergency money and donations from the Lake County Forest Preserve to get things cleared up again.

Gov. Quinn is expected to sign the new bill, which had already passed the Illinois House last year. IDNR official Marc Miller said the funding will be crucial for his agency.

“This vote is a victory for conservation and the environment in Illinois; it is also a victory for the economy and communities across the state that use and rely on services the IDNR provides on a daily basis,” Miller said in press release. He credited State Rep. Frank Mautino and State Sen. Toi Hutchinson for getting the bill passed and on the governor’s desk.

“While it’s important to remember that capturing these new funds will take time, we will work as quickly as we can to put the new revenues toward the intended purpose,” said Miller. That’s because the new fee won’t show up in new license-plate charges until March because the Secretary of State office already sent out renewals for drivers for the next three months.

“Passage of his bill will help us hire critical staff to maintain parks, fix aging infrastructure, speed up regulatory functions and a make a bigger difference in the lives of everyone we serve,” he said.

It’s just our luck that Monday night, the Lake County Audubon will be having Chris Rollins, regional land manager for the IDNR, as guest speaker. He will give a “State of the Parks” talk starting at 7:30 p.m. at the Libertyville Village Hall, 118 W. Cook Street.

He will present an overview of the current systems, programs, and status of Illinois’ state parks and budget. He will also discuss current initiatives to establish new, dedicated sources of funding for DNR. This program should be of special interest since Illinois’ financial issues have negatively affected the state-park system.

It’s a free lecture and you can even get a little holiday shopping done by purchasing one of the group’s bird houses that they sell to raise money for the club.

Walleyes Unlimited

Walleyes Unlimited USA has two meetings in December. The first is in Franklin, Wis., at the Root River Lanes, 7220 W Rawson, three miles west of I-94 on County BB. On Wednesday, Dec. 12 at 7 p.m., John Reedy will talk about long-lining for Geneva walleyes. If you don’t know about this little-talked about technique ,then know if you go, it’s $5 for the guest fee.

On Wednesday Dec. 26, the club will hold a Swap Night at the American Legion Post in Gurnee (routes 21 and 132) where you can purchase good used equipment and tackle and share information with other anglers. Some members take the time to mark your maps of areas they have had success fishing on various lakes in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin. They will also demonstrate rigging techniques.

The clubs 15th aAnnual Walleye Unlimited Ice Fishing Jamboree & Meat Raffle is set for Jan. 19 at A J’s Bar and Grill on Muskego Lake, S90 W13970 Boxhorn Drive, Muskego, in Wisconsin. It’s their most important fund-raiser of the year.

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