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Print

Gov. Quinn announces DNR land purchases for hunting, recreation

February 20, 2013 at 03:52 PM

The State Journal-Register

Hunters, anglers, bird-watchers and hikers have some new places to explore.

The state of Illinois has purchased 547 acres for outdoors recreation, including 411 acres in Pike County, in west-central Illinois.

Gov. Pat Quinn announced the $2.8 million purchases during an event Wednesday at DNR headquarters with director Marc Miller and Lenore Beyer-Clow of Openlands in Chicago.

Also part of the announcement was the acquisition of the first 72-acre parcel of the new Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge in McHenry County on the Illinois-Wisconsin border.

Sixty-four acres were purchased to expand the Lowden-Miller State Forest in Ogle County, and a one-acre natural area with 40 species of rare plants was purchased for Kickapoo State Recreation Area in Vermilion County.

“We’re very proud of these four places,” Miller said.

Money to acquire the properties was made available through the Illinois Jobs Now! capital program and allocated to the Illinois Open Lands Trust.

DNR manages about 500,000 acres of public land and 324 state parks, state forests, recreation areas and fish and wildlife areas.

DNR constituents often cite lack of public access to land for hunting and other recreation as one of their top concerns.

“The Pike County property provides 411 acres of public recreational access in a place that doesn’t very much access,” Miller said. “We’re going to be working on rules to allow for hunting to take place in this area.”

Miller said deer hunting creates an economic impact of $25 million in Pike County every year.

“That is a tremendous economic impact,” he said. “As we add more acres, that will be even better for Illinois.”

The Pike County acreage was acquired for $1.8 million.

The Ogle County acquisition cost $450,000.

The Vermilion county purchase cost $25,000.

The McHenry County parcel, part of the new Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge cost $511,000.

Beyer-Clow, public policy director for Openlands, said purchasing the first parcel was critical to the establishment of the new National Wildlife Refuge.

“We needed to have an acquisition on the ground,” she said. “It was a complicated process but it put the refuge on the ground and in place.”

The refuge is allowed to grow to 11,200 acres over time.

McHenry County owns an additional 8,000 acres in the vicinity.

Openlands purchased the 72 acres to get the ball rolling, and DNR is now acquiring the acreage from Openlands.

“We hope as things progress, will have a wide variety of recreational activities on that land,” Miller said. “There is more to come. The footprint potentially could be 11,000 acres, only a short drive away from Chicago.”

Quinn said it is important to create outdoors recreational opportunities in the northeast corner of the state where almost half of the state’s people reside.

Quinn asked then-Interior Dept. Secretary Ken Salazar to help get Hackmatack going. The process of establishing a new National Wildlife Refuge can take “decades” Miller said.

“It was a critical first step in a visionary plan for land and water conservation in northern Illinois,” Beyer-Clow said. “It is within an hour’s drive of Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison, and Rockford. It will attract tourism, outdoors recreation including hunting and economic development opportunities.”

“We’re pleased to be making this announcement,” Miller said. “Not just for hunters, but for everyone in Illinois.”

Chris Young can be reached at (217) 788-1528. Follow him at Twitter.com/ChrisYoungPSO.

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