- Associated Press - Saturday, May 2, 2020

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - The Illinois Department of Natural Resources will use a $2 million federal grant to expand access to private land for hunting, fishing and other outdoor recreation and help landowners improve wildlife habitat on their property.

IDNR currently leases about 22,000 acres in 49 counties for fishing and for hunting of turkey, deer, waterfowl, pheasants and other wildlife through the Illinois Recreational Access Program. Habitat improvements have been made on more than 12,500 acres of the leased land through the program, which began in 2011.

IDNR Director Collen Callahan said the new grant money will be used to continue and expand the program, adding activities such as youth shotgun deer hunting and archery deer hunter days.

Callahan noted 97% of land in Illinois is privately owned, with 85% of that land owned by farmers, which greatly restricts access. The temporary closure of some state sites due to the COVID-19 pandemic means the recreational access program “is needed now more than ever,” Callahan said.

Tammy Miller, who manages the program, said more than 25 landowners already are waiting to sign up with the new grant.

The money will be used to lease additional properties near urban areas in Illinois as that are part of an agricultural conservation easement program.

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