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Outdoor Column | Les Winkeler: A stronger environmental position

Outdoor Column | Les Winkeler: A stronger environmental position

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Streams of unconsciousness from the world of the outdoors:

Nature relaxes: Whether or not you’re happy with the results of last week’s election, your inner environmentalist, hunter of fisherman should be.

While president-elect Biden doesn’t check all the boxes of the most ardent environmentalists, he’ll be much better for our air, water, birds and animals than the Trump administration.

Biden has already announced the United States will rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement, a step in the right direction. It’s also safe to say we’ll see no more erosion of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and it’s unlikely that the federal government will continue to protect the roadless area of the Tongass National Forest in Alaska.

These may seem like insignificant measures to many, but we are dealing with massive declines in songbird populations over the last generation and the Tongass National Forest is a carbon sponge.

Hunters and anglers have historically been a conservative group politically – although it has been my experience most favor conservation when it affects them directly. Stronger environmental positioning by the federal government will help ensure the future of hunting and fishing.

Nature sighs: The failure of Illinois to pass the progressive tax could have an adverse effect on the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Gov. J.B. Pritzker has stated that the failure of the initiative will result in deep cuts in state services.

I asked IDNR director Colleen Callahan earlier this month what the pandemic would do to the agency’s funding. She had no definitive answer, instead stating several factors, including election results, would affect the final budget.

She wasn’t specific, but it seems logical that the progressive tax was one of those variables.

The IDNR budget has been cut to the bone in many areas. There is still deferred maintenance that needs to be done. We are still woefully short of Conservation Police Officers and state parks are still terribly understaffed.

The agency has been making a slow but steady comeback from the George Ryan-Rod Blagojevich years. It would be a shame to see that progress halted.

Stealing a week: The weather this past week was simply amazing.

We took advantage of the unseasonably warm weather to kayak at Glen O. Jones Lake on Sunday.

Many of the hardwoods had shed their leaves. The oaks are stubbornly holding on to their brown leaves. But, the combination of those browns, the dark green of intermittent pines and the azure-blue sky made for a stunning mental pictures.

Once we got off the water we roasted hot dogs and enjoyed a cold beverage. The smell of the smoky fire, temperatures dropping slightly as sunset approached, the hot sandwich and the cold beer … Yeah, it just doesn’t get much better than that.

Leaves everywhere: It’s definitely that time of the year. You can’t walk through our house without finding an oak leaf in the most random places.

We have two large oaks, a sweet gum, a buckeye, a willow and a redbud tree in our yard. The buckeye, willow and redbud leaves were shed a month ago. The gum leaves are cascading down as you read this while the oaks give up their leaves grudgingly.

Yet, the oak leaves somehow manage to sneak in the house every time a door opens. I suspect it is the physical makeup of the leaf, it’s larger and less pliable than the others, making it more susceptible to the wind.

But, that doesn’t explain how they manage to migrate once they get inside.

And, if this is what occupies my mind, apparently I have too much time on my hands.

LES WINKELER is the outdoors writer for The Southern Illinoisan. Contact him at, on Twitter @LesWinkeler.



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