January 3, 2020
New director
reviews 1st year
at Illinois DNR

By Dale Bowman/Chicago Sun-Times
Photo by Jasperdo/flickr

I asked Colleen Callahan if she was happy with her role.

“I am and appreciate it and enjoy it more every day,” she said. “We have 329 parks [state owned or managed sites] and 56 historic sites. I haven’t been to them all yet. I spent a whole week in the fall in southern Illinois and visited as many sites as possible. I did the same thing in the northern part of [the] state.”

On Dec. 20, I did a year-in-review phone interview with Callahan, who on March 1 became the first woman to be appointed director of the Illinois -Department of Natural Resources.

Callahan is learning the breadth of the job.

“It is one thing to know it, another thing to live it, to see the diversity of the landscape,” she said. “There are so many different terrains that we can share in our state. People don’t have to cross a state line. I am more determined than ever to encourage people to stay in Illinois. We are lucky to live where we do.”

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Arkansas’ fabled flooded timber needs help 
By T. Edward Nickens/Ducks Unlimited
Photo by Vincent Parsons/flickr
Arkansas’s storied green-timber duck hunting heritage is at a crossroads. To put it plainly, the human-manipulated flooded forests that have sustained a half century of waterfowling’s finest flooded-timber duck hunting are dying. Through a combination of natural and man-made factors, the woods are being flooded earlier, and are holding more water for longer periods of time, than ever before. The result is vast swaths of trees with anemic crowns and leafless branches. Trees that have rotted, weakened root systems and blow over in storms. The slow, inexorable creep of water-tolerant species that offer little food for ducks. And low regeneration—in many cases, little to no regeneration—of young trees.

For the legendary flooded-timber hunting of Arkansas, the future is as full of challenges as the past has been of gilded green-headed glory. For decades, greentree reservoirs—or GTRs—have provided waterfowlers with everything they could possibly dream of in a duck hunt: easy access, stunning scenery, close shots, and ducks on top of ducks. Now it might be time for duck hunters and other wetland conservationists to return the favor and work for a future in which these majestic flooded forests can thrive and inspire awe in waterfowlers 50 and 100 years from today.

Commerce chief sides with recreational anglers on menhaden
Photo by Nils Rinaldi/flickr
U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross has issued a decision cracking down on overfishing in the Chesapeake Bay and paving the way for better management of the menhaden fishery.

Ross  found the state of Virginia out of compliance  after foreign-owned Omega Protein willfully violated the fishing cap on menhaden, a key food source for striped bass, in the Chesapeake Bay.

“Secretary Ross made the right move in standing with recreational fishermen,”  said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the  Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership . “Reduction fishing for menhaden threatens the livelihoods of thousands of hard-working fishing guides and tackle shop owners and impacts everything from striped bass to whales. Today’s decision holds Omega accountable and sets the stage for improved management of this important forage fish.”

Feral hog menace spreads to the north
By Jim Robbins/The New York Times
Photo by Josh Henderson/flickr
Ranchers and government officials in Montana are keeping watch on an enemy army gathering to the north, along the border with Canada. The invaders are big, testy, tenacious — and they’ll eat absolutely anything.

Feral pigs are widely considered to be the most destructive invasive species in the United States. They can do remarkable damage to the ecosystem, wrecking crops and hunting animals like birds and amphibians to near extinction.

They have wrecked military planes on runways. And although attacks on people are extremely rare, in November feral hogs  killed a woman in Texas  who was arriving for work in the early morning hours.

“Generally an invasive species is detrimental to one crop, or are introduced into waterways and hurt the fish,” said Dale Nolte, manager of the feral swine program at the Department of Agriculture. “But feral swine are destructive across the board and impact all sectors.”

Do you like pheasants? Thank coyotes
Pheasants Forever
McGraw photo
One warm fall afternoon I delivered a truckload of fertilizer to an Idaho wheat farmer. After unloading it, we sat in the back of his pickup resting and chatting when a coyote squeezed out of nearby brush and sauntered along the edge of a newly harvested wheat field.   
“There goes my best employee. He works night and day nabbing the grasshoppers, rabbits and mice that gobble up my crops and profit and never asks for a paycheck,” the farmer said.

It's logical for hunters to assume shooting coyotes boosts pheasant numbers. Everyone knows that coyotes are predators and pheasants are both tasty and meaty. But does it really help pheasant numbers to hurl a load of shot at one?
Predation is complex. Biologist and pheasant hunters are beginning to realize that what seems common sense may not be confirmed by research. It seems counter intuitive, but a healthy coyote population probably favors increased numbers of pheasants because they either drive off or kill the smaller animals that are more serious pheasant and nest predators.

Number of birds identified by McGraw Vice President Clark Ganshirt and friends during the annual Christmas bird count, held December 16. Most common at the Foundation were dark-eyed juncos (313) followed by sandhill cranes(143).


To read past McGraw Reports click here.