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Gov. Quinn signs recreational liability bill

August 30, 2013 at 10:16 AM

The State Journal-Register

When Gov. Pat Quinn signed a bill to exempt some property owners from liability when they allow outdoors recreation or education on their land, it was the culmination of seven years of work to get the law changed.

The new law protects property owners from liability if they allow the public on their land to hike, fish, watch birds or participate in other forms of outdoors recreation.

The bill primarily pertains to landowners who do not charge admission and nonprofit groups that want to invite the public to visit their properties.

Quinn signed the law Aug. 23, and it takes effect Jan. 1.
For decades, landowners were exempt from liability, but a court case changed that seven years ago.

A lawsuit over a sledding accident caused the law to be amended when the question arose over whether the liability exemption covered an invitation to friends or only if the land was open to the public.

Since then, only hunting and recreational shooting remained exempt, and other forms of recreation were not protected.

And the cost of liability insurance meant some nonprofit groups could not open property they owned to the public.

“Most of the land trusts we work with now will be able to open their land for recreation, work days, educational programs and restoration projects,” said Lenore Beyer-Clow, policy director for Openlands in Chicago. “It helps them breathe a sigh of relief.”

She said organizations seeking grants to protect land will have a better chance to compete for limited funds.

“I think there is a possibility this might provide some more private foundation grant money because the foundations want to see that land open to the public,” Beyer-Clow said “And private landowners will see this as an opportunity — not a hardship, but an opportunity to share what they have.”

Quinn emphasized the legislation was an “agreed-upon bill,” that all parties put together, she said.

Conservation groups like The Nature Conservancy, Openlands and the Illinois Environmental Council, and the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association have worked with Sen. Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, and Rep. Ann Williams, D-Chicago, to craft the bill’s language.

Chris Young can be reached at 788-1528 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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