Illinois using its state plane to fly in birds

As Illinois sinks further into catastrophic debt and contemplates making the last "temporary" income tax increase permanent. there's a report that the state is using its own airplane to fly prairie chickens to Downstate counties. As often as 14 times. At a cost of nearly half a million dollars.

Is there no end to it?

Read about it in Illinois News Network.

Prairie Chicken

Prairie Chicken


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  • fb_avatar

    Its not about saving them, its about oil....they're being moved from Kansas...

  • Dennis: Something to consider. Last year I drove to Montana with my bird dog. I spent thousands of dollars in groceries and lodging. I spent hundreds in out of state license fees. The reason? I wanted to hunt prairie grouse (of which the prairie chicken is a member). A month later, I drove to Michigan and left more of my cash there. Why? Ruffed Grouse. This fall, I'll be heading back to MI. And to Missouri for quail. Point being: hunters have cash and will travel. Maybe flying these birds doesn't make sense. But introducing them most assuredly does.

  • In reply to Rick Bohning:

    RIck, if it is such a good idea, why not do it yourself?

    We have Social Service providers who haven't been re-imbursed for caring for homeless pregnant addicts, and our State is paying to fly birds around? Need to prioritize these things.


  • In reply to jbpo:

    Your statement leads me to understand that you are not so informed about such things. I do not do this because it is illegal for me to do so. It is illegal for me to trap prairie chickens from another state. It is illegal for me to transport these across state line. It is illegal for me to release them into Illinois.
    Let me give you some information that you may not be aware of: Hunting is big business. Talk to anyone from Pike County, Illinois. The whitetal deer is king. Their economy lives and dies by the whitetail. Why? Because people come from across the US to Pike county to shoot deer. I just looked at one lodge's rates: over $5000!
    Sure, we can talk about priorities. But think about it...our government does absolutely nothing to create wealth. All they do is take it. The debates in the hallowed halls consist of nothing more than taking more from us and deciding who besides us is entitled to it. But, in their thievery, they actually do something, totally by accident, that can actually create some wealth. I'm going to let them. If they were going to reintroduce wolves, or yellow bellied wombats, or something else that has no economical value, I'd be with you. But the prairie chicken has worth and it will draw.

  • In reply to Rick Bohning:

    Got it, so why not raise the money yourself or get someone from Pike County to raise the money and then get someone certified to do catch and release in Illinois. If it is such a "big business" you guys should be able to make a healthy profit on this.

    I am more concerned about the helpless, pregnant addicts for example, than prairie chickens. I don't begrudge anyone who wants to increase the population of prairie chickens, but I don't think we have the money for it in Illinois.

  • In reply to jbpo:

    I don't see it as "big business" as I see it as an economic boost. Kind of like the Lincoln Library in Springfield. No one is getting rich on this, but it is helping the region and state by drawing in visitors. Even so, your idea is sound. There ought to be an avenue to donate or help.

    For me, personally, I will let the state do this, because they can and have an easier time than I would. In contrast, I spend my money on the pregnant addicts. (I am quite philanthropic, actually) The state has demonstrated that they are pretty inept with regard to pregnant addicts. However, the private organizations that I donate to and give my time prove themselves to be much better than government in helping pregnant addicts

  • In reply to Rick Bohning:

    Rick, I am glad that you are concerned with people in need.

    However, if there is one thing that the State of Illinois is worse at than Social Services, it is investing in private business. The State should stay out of pretty much everything that they can stay out of.

  • In reply to jbpo:

    You know what? I just looked at prairie ridge. It is a disjointed habitat that is not well suited to the chicken. It appears they are bringing in more birds because of a loss of the existing stock. It appears that they are not having much success in maintaining the bird and the population cannot support any sort of hunting.

    All this to say: yeah...waste of money. I stand corrected.

  • fb_avatar

    Hey, pretty good conversation. I'd like to clarify a few things.

    The Prairie Chicken relocation project is being funded out of money earmarked for wildlife preservation at both the state and federal level not to mention direct public donation. The Federal money, which is 2/3 the source, is a grant from a Wildlife preservation fund and can't be used for other purposes. So it's either this project or one like it. But it can't be used for social services, reducing debt, etc. The state money comes from license, registration fees from hunter, fishermen, and others. Not one penny, including the lovely airplane rides, comes from the general fund - the one that we pay our income tax into. Rick, as a hunter who pays these fees, I kind of expected you'd be onto this.

    The Prairie State Natural Areas (PRSNA) are quite suitable for the Prairie Chicken and a lot more, supporting a great number of threatened and endangered species. Until the PRSNA's creation, the Prairie Chicken's days were numbered in Illinois. With the PRSNA's management, the Prairie Chickens population numbers were coming back well. But the numbers were not sustainable. Then a seasonal drought and a hail storm reduced the bird's presence in Illinois to almost extinction (about 60 birds).

    The current project is to get a leg up on developing a sustainable bird population. A sustainable population means that although drought and hail might reduce the numbers drastically, they would not reduce it to a point that the bird's existence in the state would be eliminated.

    As Rick suggested, Prairie Chickens and the habitat they occupy in Jasper and Marion County bring hundreds of ecotourists from within Illinois and beyond- birders who want to see this bird and scores of others endemic to native grasslands. There are literally lines forming to view the Prairie Chicken when the population becomes more stable and the blinds and other viewing opportunities open again. I know it sounds funny. But it is true. I waited a year to get a seat in a blind, hoteling in Effingham and sliding into the blind at 3AM so I might see the behavior at 5AM. So crazy that hundreds (thousands?) are waiting to spend their money to do this.

    As far as hunting the bird, sure. Hunting is currently permitted for deer at PRSNA. There is every reason to believe the Prairie Chicken could rebound to a point where managed culling of the flocks would permit hunting. When you're fighting extinction, it's hard to think about culling. But it is perfectly reasonable.

    And talk about big business, Rick's got that right as well. Nationwide, birding (go ahead and laugh at us) generates $107 billion in total economic output. $40 billion in travel and food and 666,000 jobs, $7 billion in federal general fund revenue and $6 billion in state general revenue fund (US Fish & Wildlife study of economic impact of birding in US 2011).

    Although the motivator behind the project is certainly the science of wildlife management, the reality is that good management of this wildlife and of the PRSNA is also good business and a net positive economic impact on the state and its residents.

    To be against the Prairie Chicken project is to be against jobs, against tourism and economic gain. With Illinois' public portion coming from wildlife related fees & registrations, this project has NO cost to the average citizen but a huge economic gain to the state.

    Important science and powerful economics.

    Give this project another look.

  • In reply to Sonny Cohen:

    Thanks for the info. I am far from any sort of expert, but as I look at the map of Prairie State, I see a patchwork quilt. I do not see big swaths of contiguous land. In other places I've visited that support prairie grouse, that seems to be what the difference was. Grass. Thousands of acres of grass, broken only by coulees. Even the agriculture out west is more supportive of the prairie grouse, with hay, alfalfa, and wheat. The corn and soybeans of Illinois do nothing for the Chicken.

    So, I fear that the PC will always be marginal here. There will always be another drought and another hail storm. Hunter dollars from our licenses will continue to be raided to support restocking a population that I suspect I will never be allowed to hunt, even if the numbers were sustainable. This is Illinois after all.

  • Good post, Sonny. I see too that John Kass of the Tribune, not known as a tax-and-spend liberal, was persuaded by Tom Clay of the Illinois Audubon Society to became a supporter of this project.

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