IDNR Receives $1.7 Million Grant to Expand Recreational Access for Youth, Families
SPRINGFIELD, IL – The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) will provide additional hunting, fishing, boating and birding opportunities for youth and families thanks to a federal grant awarded to expand the Illinois Recreational Access Program (IRAP).
The IDNR will receive a $1.74 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Voluntary Public Access and habitat Incentive Program. The funds will allow the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to expand IRAP, a program that provides rental payments, habitat management plans and assistance on implementing restoration projects to landowners who agree to allow access for hunting, fishing, boat launching and other recreation.
“One of the priorities of our agency is to expand access for outdoors recreation, especially for young hunters and anglers,” said IDNR Director Marc Miller. “With 95 percent of Illinois’ land area in private ownership, finding a place to hunt, fish or enjoy nature has been a growing challenge.”
During the IRAP program’s first three years, 65 private landowners enrolled 13,000 acres in 29 counties. During this time, more than 300 young turkey hunters hunted on IRAP leased property, with the more than half of these youngsters being first time turkey hunters. The majority of those young hunters did not have access to other hunting land. In addition, 75 habitat management plans have been or are in the process of being completed. Habitat management projects have been implemented on 3,100 acres of IRAP leased property.
“We very excited about how these funds will help us add new hunting activities to the IRAP program,” said IRAP Manager Tammy Miller. “We are constantly receiving requests to add additional hunting actives and now we can.”
The grant allows IRAP to be offered statewide.
Previously, IRAP was available in 68 counties in the Illinois and Kankakee watersheds.
The USDA made $20 million available out of the $40 million authorized under the 2014 Farm Bill for this round of applications. Selection was highly competitive, with 27 applications submitted requesting over $60 million. Illinois was one of only 10 applicants to receive an award.
IDNR will begin enrolling landowners this fall. Youth and first-time hunters will be able to sign up for the expanded offerings in the summer of 2015. Like last year, youth turkey hunters will be able to sign up for spring turkey hunting this November.
For more information on IRAP, visit: http://www.dnr.illinois.gov/conservation/irap/pages/default.aspx