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Career Opportunities with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources

Mission: To manage, conserve and protect Illinois' natural, recreational and cultural resources, further the public's understanding and appreciation of those resources, and promote the education, science and public safety of Illinois' natural resources for present and future generations.

Diverse Agency: The Illinois Department of Natural Resources, or IDNR, is the state's natural resources conservation and outdoor recreation provision agency. The agency is very diverse in its functions and relies on the technical and professional skills of many people to accomplish its goals. Shown below are some of the agency's responsibilities and the type of job opportunities available within the IDNR.

Components of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources

Law Enforcement: Staff members in this office work to protect Illinois' natural and recreational resources through enforcement of laws. Conservation Police Officers are part of this office. These officers have full statewide police authority and are trained to the highest standards for law enforcement professionals in Illinois. They are often called upon to assist outside agencies in emergency situations or rescue operations. Safety Education is also part of the Office of Law Enforcement. The four mandatory safety education programs (boating, hunter, trapping and snowmobiling), teach user responsibility, respect and safety.

Land Management: There is no better way to appreciate the natural diversity of Illinois than by enjoying the many recreational opportunities offered through the more than 140 state parks, natural areas, fish and wildlife areas, recreation areas, state trails, state forests, wildlife management areas, conservation areas, game propagation centers and state memorials controlled by the IDNR Office of Land Management. The Historic Sites Division oversees 56 historic sites and memorials across the state, covering more than 2,000 years of Illinois history. The Historic Preservation Division helps homeowners, businesses and communities preserve their own historic resources.

Water Resources: Managing the state’s rivers, lakes and streams as well as regulating Lake Michigan water allocations to more than seven million people are among the duties of staff members in the Office of Water Resources. They also administer programs regarding construction projects related to floodways, Lake Michigan, dams and in public bodies of water. They work with local governments on urban flood-damage reduction projects. Staff members from this office gather water resources data prior to, during and following a flood and disseminate data to various state and local agencies.

Scientific Research and Analysis: The mission of the Illinois State Museum is to collect, study and interpret objects that represent the natural history, anthropology and art of Illinois. The four sites in the museum system include the Illinois State Museum, Dickson Mounds Museum, the Lockport Gallery and the Research and Collections Center. The Research and Collections Center holds more than 14.5 million objects.

Strategic Services: The Office of Strategic Services is responsible for licenses and permits. They also handle watercraft registration and renewal. The publications Clearinghouse is a part of this office, as is the motor pool providing vehicles for IDNR staff. The Special Events, Programs and Promotions section includes work at fairs, sport shows and living history reenactments as well as programs such as National Archery in the Schools and the Scholastic Clay Target Program. The Disabled Outdoor Opportunities program works to provide greater access and more outdoor events for persons with disabilities.

Communication: The IDNR Office of Communication includes staff members who work with the media and conduct marketing activities. The Division of Education is responsible for the development and dissemination of educational programs and materials and for training in their use.

Mines and Minerals: The Office of Mines and Minerals is comprised of four divisions: Land Reclamation; Abandoned Mine Lands Reclamation; Mine Safety and Training; and Blasting, Explosives and Aggregate Reclamation. Within these divisions, the office: regulates the mining industry throughout Illinois; regulates the possession, use and storage of explosives; and enforces various acts that govern the mining industry.

Oil and Gas: The Office of Oil and Gas Resource Management is the regulatory authority in Illinois for permitting, drilling, operating and plugging oil and gas production wells. Staff members implement the Illinois Oil and Gas Act and enforce standards for the construction and operation of related production equipment and facilities. In addition, the regulation of injection of fluids into underground wells and clean-up of abandoned well sites occur in this office.  

Resource Conservation: The Office of Resource Conservation is one of the largest components of the IDNR. Among its staff members are those who work on forestry, wildlife management, fisheries management, natural heritage and endangered species topics.  

Architecture, Engineering and Grants: Staff members in this office review and evaluate plans and specifications for proposed construction projects at IDNR facilities and oversee construction of the projects as well as providing technical assistance to other IDNR offices on engineering and architectural matters. Design and construction of waterfowl, habitat and recreational improvement projects is completed by the heavy equipment crew. Grant Administration staff members are responsible for managing and coordinating the IDNR’s recreational Grants-in-Aid programs to local governments. The Open Space Land Acquisition and Development Program funds projects that will provide new recreational facilities, such as parks and playgrounds. The Bikeways Program provides for bike trail enhancement and development. The Boat Access Program funds new and improved boat accesses. The Snowmobile Access and Development program provides for new and improved snowmobile trails and trail access.

Realty and Environmental Planning: This IDNR Office has three components:  Ecosystems and Environment; Realty and Planning; and Concession and Lease Management. Ecosystems and Environment is responsible for implementation of the environmental consultation process (threatened and endangered species, wetlands, natural areas, review of IDNR projects). Realty provides real estate appraisal and acquisition assistance to the IDNR's grant programs and to other offices in the IDNR related to land issues. Staff members of the Planning division are responsible for outdoor recreational planning, program administration and project planning/coordination, and for acquiring all real estate used by the IDNR. Concession and Lease Management is responsible for administering concession lease agreements for IDNR lands and for legal agreements providing operational activities, such as land leases.

Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee: The IDNR is a part of the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee (ACRCC), a collaboration of 27 U.S. and Canadian federal, state, provincial and local agencies and organizations working to manage the threat of four species (bighead carp, silver carp, black carp and grass carp) of invasive Asian carp. Two species of Asian carp—the bighead and silver carp—were imported into the southern United States to keep aquaculture facilities clean and to provide fresh fish for fish markets. Bighead and silver carp escaped into the wild in the 1970s and have been swimming northward ever since, overwhelming the Mississippi and Illinois river systems. Biologists, policy makers, and citizens are concerned about Asian carp entering the Great Lakes through the Chicago Waterway System. If these fish enter the Great Lakes, they will likely spread throughout the basin due to natural and manmade connections and the widespread distribution of suitable habitat. Recognizing the environmental and economic importance of the Great Lakes, the ACRCC was formed to help prevent the establishment of Asian carp in the Great Lakes. Through intensive monitoring and rapid response actions, the ACRCC is leading the way in the control and management of Asian carp.

IDNR Coastal Management Program: Illinois is dedicated to protecting and managing the natural and cultural resources along our 63-mile stretch of Lake Michigan shoreline. The Illinois Coastal Management Program is focusing efforts to address many issues that are outlined in the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Strategy. 

Director’s Office: The Director's Office staff members perform many functions regarding customer service and communication with the IDNR’s constituents.

Legal: Legal office employees are responsible for providing advice to the IDNR on all legal matters.

Compliance and Equal Employment Opportunity: The Director of the Office of Compliance and Equal Employment Opportunity serves as the Equal Employment Opportunity/Affirmative Action (EEO/AA) Officer, monitoring the application of all mandates from federal and state enforcement entities to businesses receiving funds from the agency and serving as liaison between the agency and all EEO authorities.

Legislation: The Office of Legislation staff members act as liaisons with state legislators and help in enacting new laws.

Career Opportunities

Within the IDNR there are many career opportunities. Education requirements for these jobs vary. Many require a college degree in the specific field or a related field. Other positions may require successful completion of performance tests.

Parks and Recreation: Staff members within the state park system are responsible for the management of wildlife, habitat areas and for providing safe and enjoyable recreational opportunities. A large amount of time is devoted to maintaining the sites, such as mowing, repairing facilities and painting, and to developing new areas. Site staff members also work with people who visit the park for recreational activities and monitor potentially dangerous situations in the park. Some parks have staff members who conduct educational programs. All park employees must have good communication skills.

Support Services: Many employees are needed for support work. They are involved with personnel, financial transactions, data processing, auditing and clerical matters. They may help hire people, process permits, sell licenses or maintain accounting records. Insurance services, equal opportunity programs, copying and mail services are other important support functions. 

Environmental Law: A variety of professionals are involved with making and enforcing environmental laws. Some staff members work with the legislature to enact new laws.  Lawyers help interpret laws to ensure resources and resource users are protected. Conservation Police Officers enforce laws and regulations designed to protect the resources and assure the safety of persons engaged in outdoor recreational pursuits. Some people are responsible for regulating the use of natural resources, such as the removal of coal or construction in a waterway.

Environmental Planning: Planners blend the technical aspects and desires of the people to develop environmentally sensitive plans, projects and programs. They need to know about natural resources conservation and outdoor recreation programs, local zoning regulations, environmental laws, natural resources impact assessment, building codes and how to negotiate with private landowners for the purchase of land for parks, bikeways and habitat areas. They work with a variety of disciplines and local citizenry to develop an acceptable plan that provides for the wisest use of the land. 

Information Services: Media staff members prepare and distribute press releases and answer questions from reporters. They use social media and Web pages as well as electronic newsletters to reach the public.

Natural Resources Management: A variety of resources professionals are responsible for managing the state's floral and faunal resources. Besides a college degree in the appropriate subject area, resources managers also must be good communicators and skilled in computer use. Fisheries management is the effort to maintain healthy populations of fishes and other aquatic life in our state's waters. Wildlife managers are responsible for management of wildlife animals and their habitats. Foresters are responsible for the complex management and uses of all the natural resources within a forested area.

Natural Resources Education: Educators help to inform the public about natural resources, their value and conservation. Some staff members develop materials to be used by educators, conduct educator workshops and offer grants and other resources to teachers. Personnel train prospective hunters, snowmobilers, boaters and trappers in the regulations and proper techniques to use in these pursuits. Interpretive staff members explain the recreational, educational, historical, cultural and ecological aspects of a site. Additional educational opportunities are offered through a variety of events.

Research: Trained professionals work to study the natural and cultural resources of the state. After collecting and analyzing the data, they prepare reports for publication and presentation. Managers use the relevant information in planning.