Winnebago County Forest Preserve users debate hunting on lands - WREX.com – Rockford’s News Leader

Winnebago County Forest Preserve users debate hunting on lands

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Hunting could be allowed on Winnebago County Forest Preserve land if some candidates get their way. Not everyone is comfortable with the idea of people hunting in their hiking and camping areas.

During a forest preserve board district debate all three candidates agreed they would vote for some form of hunting in rural if they were elected.

"They would have to close the park while they are doing the hunting because obviously it wouldn't be safe for people to be out here camping, hiking or doing anything like that because you would never know when somebody would take a shot at you mistakenly so I don't think I'm for it," says Lynn Yontz, who camps at Seward Forest Preserve.

Hunting in the parks is a controversial issue, but not a new one.

"Seems like every couple of years there's a rally to ask the commissioner to consider changing our policies and allow hunting," says Jamie Johannsen, Winnebago County Forest Preserve director of marking and public relations.

Johannsen says the sides are usually evenly split with people who don't want their activities interrupted in the forest preserve and those who hunt and want use of the public land. In the almost 100 years since the county forest preserve has been operating hunting has never been allowed.

"It is a philosophical question, is hunting a legitimate recreational activity that we feel we are obligated or would like to provide for the public and if so how do we make it compatible with the other uses," says Johannsen.

 John Fuller, used to hunt but doesn't anymore.  He doesn't mind giving up a little time in the preserves to allow the practice.

"I would say they could hunt here under certain restrictions as in on weekends when the park has to be closed for the hunting.  And have people out here who can actually shoot what they aim at," says Fuller, who was camping at Seward Forest Preserve.

It would take an ordinance change by the Winnebago County Forest Preserve Board of Commissioner to allow hunting. Bev Moore, Lee Johnson and Cheryl Maggio who are running for the board say they would support one.

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