Audit Trail: Special DNR Review Finds Missing Money, Poor Process

DollarsignHere's an interesting special audit of accounting processes related to potential theft earlier this year by a Department of Natural Resources employee.

The audit determined that the employee should repay the agency roughly $6,300; it also found a number of deficiencies in the area of internal financial controls.

Fenced In: DNR Will Fight To End Canned Hunting, Enforce New Rule

Gunbang1The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette's Niki Kelly revisits the canned hunting issue, which had drifted off the radar for a few months but now appears headed back to court:

"State officials have shifted gears and decided to fight a lawsuit over a rule banning high-fenced hunting preserves in Indiana.

"The Department of Natural Resources had entered into settlement negotiations in August 2006, but more than a year later – and with another deer hunting season under way – the legal wrangling continues.

"The issue began to fester in the late 1990s when several facilities sprang up under the guise of a game breeder’s license. The owners charged thousands of dollars for hunters to come in and shoot prized deer bred specifically for large antlers.

"But it came to a head in 2005 when former DNR Director Kyle Hupfer announced he would implement an emergency – then permanent – rule banning these operations from the state.

"The purpose was to clarify ambiguities in current regulations and establish new ones regarding what some refer to as canned hunting – or paying to shoot deer behind fences.

"Hundreds of deer farms around the state possess white-tailed deer and other animals under a game breeder’s permit, but only a few provide hunting opportunities.

"Hupfer determined that while the permit allows for the possession, breeding and sale of white-tailed deer, it does not authorize the hunting or purposeful killing of deer maintained under that license.

"Preserve owners disagreed, saying they were given permission to open up by former DNR officials.

"Rodney Bruce, the owner of Whitetail Bluff in Corydon, sued in 2005 and received an injunction preventing the DNR from enforcing the ban on his property.

"The General Assembly tried to intervene in 2006 but failed, which prompted negotiations to start in earnest."

Fun With Press Releases: Nature Hates Us, Watch Your Step On The Ice

Swampthing_2If only there were an award for State Agencies That Get To Put Cool-Sounding Stuff In Press Releases, the Department of Natural Resources would win top prize hands-down. From a release sent out today:

"Water sports enthusiasts who want to continue enjoying their favorite lakes should keep their eyes peeled for two submersed invasive aquatic plants this spring and summer."

Previously: Alien invasive species invade Spring Mill!

If invasive species from outer space aren't your thing, DNR also has cornered the market on Advice For The Galactically Stupid:

"Frigid weather means ice, which means ice skating, ice fishing and other outdoor fun, but Indiana conservation officers warn that people should temper their excitement with caution before taking that first step onto any frozen waterway.

"A lack of ice safety knowledge can lead to tragedy.

"'There is no such thing as safe ice, but some ice is safer than other ice,' said Mike Kellner, District 7 conservation officer."

Watch Where You Ride That Thing: DNR Prepared For Mountain Bike Lovers

Mountainbike_1You can take a gun anywhere you'd like to in a state park, but the Department of Natural Resources has officially got its eye on you, mountain bike enthusiasts. For a few new rules and the complete history of mountain biking, click here.

"Mountain biking is a relatively new sport and activity. In the last 25 years, mountain bikes have gone from being unheard of to the number one type of bike sold in the United States. Bicycles were originally a means of transportation, and they are still used that way today. The first mountain bikes were nothing more than road bikes with fat tires. Today's mountain bikes are technological marvels, with 24 or more gears, aluminum alloy frames, and even suspension systems. The off-road cyclist is looking for more riding areas to test both the rider and bicycle and to experience the outdoors while covering much more ground than the average hiker."

News In A Snap: Some People Shop, Some People Read About Politics

Newspapers_2 TDW has myriad last-minute things to do before Christmas, so here, in no particular order, are a few random stories for you to play with in her absence today.

The Indy Star has five questions for incoming Hoosier Lottery Director Kathryn Densborn. Otherwise known as Five Scripted Answers From The Guv's Office.

Lesley Stedman Weidenbener provides an overview of the Guv's 2007 legislative agenda in her weekly column for the Louisville Courier-Journal.

The Guv's plan to import prisoners from California to make an extra few bucks appears to be dead -- in part because the prisoners aren't volunteering and in part because there were too many concerns and objections.

Steve Ford of the Evansville Courier & Press lauds the Department of Natural Resources' decision not to strip-mine in a local wildlife area.

The Indianapolis Business Journal, per usual, carries several good pieces. There's one on the advertorial flap at the Indy Star. And there's a good one on the ups and downs of the Guv's Lottery privatization scheme.

Mining Nixed: Coal In Glendale Wildlife Area To Remain Underground

CoalstockingThe Department of Natural Resources has decided not to move forward with plans to strip-mine a wildlife area in Southwestern Indiana despite the fact that there is marketable coal on the property.

This may be the first time in the past two years that the Guv's administration actually listened and subsequently reacted to public input. Color TDW stunned. And pleased. From the release:

"Coal found during exploratory drilling that started Aug. 17 at Glendale Fish and Wildlife Area will stay there.

"DNR Director Rob Carter's announcement came after the review of exploratory drilling results that were received Dec. 11, and the assessment of feedback from an Oct. 11 public meeting in the Glendale area on the subject.

"The DNR had contracted with mining company Black Beauty, Inc., to determine if there were viable coal reserves at Glendale. The drilling data obtained showed the area to hold substantial coal; however, the overwhelming majority of people at the meeting opposed mining the area.

"In the months in between, the DNR received no indication of public support for the mining proposal. That lack of backing resulted in today's announcement."

Expert In The Field: DNR Leader, Staff Should Have Wildlife Experience

Fish_1 Phil Potter, a columnist for the Evansville Courier & Press, thinks those who lead the Department of Natural Resources should actually have some experience in the field, not just be political appointees who are owed something by the Guv. Interesting concept. What next? You actually want the head of the Family and Social Services Administration to have needy Hoosiers' interests at heart? In all seriousness, this is a good idea. Let's give it some consideration.

"Question: What kind of wildlife background does it take to become Indiana's director of natural resources?

"Answer: Whatever suits the governor.

"Gov. Mitch Daniels' original appointee was Kyle Hupfer, a practicing lawyer. When Hupfer resigned last week, he was replaced by Robert Carter Jr., a two-time Clay County sheriff and current head of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources' law enforcement division.

"While Gov. Daniels touted Carter as being an excellent law officer, he failed to elaborate on how this qualifies him to effectively manage Indiana's wildlife.

"For years, Indiana has consistently created IDNR directors through patronage rather than hire accredited wildlife professionals.

"Other states have seen the light and ended wildlife politics with great results. In Tennessee, patronage ceased in 1970 when a dedicated conservation officer became the wildlife director and made sweeping policy changes.

"Perhaps the most crucial change was when all Tennessee Department of Conservation candidates, including conservation officers, were required to have accredited college wildlife degrees.

"This new policy created a steady professional work force that remains loyal to their jobs. As a result, more and more highly qualified wildlife biologists and managers from other states are vying for jobs in Tennessee."

Lump Of Coal: Newspaper Urges New DNR Chief To Reverse Strip-Mining Plan

Coal_1Outgoing Department of Natural Resources chief Kyle Hupfer can't seem to catch a break on the editorial pages. Yesterday, it was the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette urging Hupfer's replacement to consider Hoosier environmentalists, not just profit. Today, it's the Evansville Courier & Press chiming in about Hupfer's oversight of exploratory strip-mining in the Glendale Fish and Wildlife Area in Southwestern Indiana:

"Results from the exploratory drilling are expected back soon and will guide DNR on how to proceed.

"We think the answer is clear, however. As we have said on this page before, a wildlife preserve is not the place to conduct strip mining.

"The noise, vibration, pollution and timber removal of mining even a small portion of Glendale would have an ugly, deleterious effect upon this natural jewel. Some reclamation efforts by mining companies have been impressive, but it takes decades for nature to return a mined area to its original condition.

"Hupfer is leaving DNR to go to ProLiance Energy, and we wish him the best. Daniels has named a new DNR director: Robert Carter Jr., a former two-term Clay County sheriff who currently heads DNR's law enforcement division.

"We congratulate Carter on his promotion. Carter's first order of business ought to be to toss the Glendale coal-exploration proposal in the round file and to declare as a matter of policy that strip mining will not be permitted there, based on overwhelming public sentiment against it. Local wishes ought to prevail."

Natural Resources: Incoming DNR Chief Carter Needs To Chart A New Course

Crazysquirrel_1The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette wants to make extra-sure that the next leader of the Department of Natural Resources is a bit friendlier to Hoosiers concerned about the environment than was his predecessor. From an editorial today:

"Hoosier conservationists aren't likely to shed tears over Kyle Hupfer's departure from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. The DNR director too often focused on exploitation instead of preservation when it came to Indiana's natural resources. Hupfer's replacement needs to make good stewardship and protection of state resources his priority.

"Hupfer, Gov. Mitch Daniels' controversial appointment to lead the DNR, is resigning, effective Friday. Daniels has named Robert Carter Jr. as his replacement. Carter, who has served as the director of DNR law enforcement for the past 21 months, needs to make it clear to Hoosiers he understands his duty to protect the state’s natural assets.

"Carter, who is from the town of Brazil, near Terre Haute, served two terms as Clay County sheriff before joining the DNR in February 2005. He was responsible for supervising 250 DNR conservation and law enforcement employees across Indiana.

"To successfully lead the DNR, Carter needs to have an appreciation for the outdoors and the importance of the state’s wildlife areas to the people of Indiana. He also needs to adeptly manage the 1,365 full-time and 1,400 seasonal employees who work for the department.

"Most importantly, he needs to demonstrate that he understands that the resources he manages belong to the people of Indiana – and he is not at liberty to sell them off to the highest bidder."

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