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July 20, 2006

IDNR expands public hunting opportunities and bird habitat in Central Illinois
313 acres added to the Habitat Wheel initiative

SPRINGFIELD, IL - The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) announced today an expansion of public hunting opportunities while preserving more bird habitat in Central Illinois.

IDNR has joined together with Pheasants Forever (PF) in the acquisition of 313 acres for a new Habitat Wheel Initiative.  The 313-acre Cranfill property, located near Hillsboro Illinois, is the third tract of land acquired for the Habitat Wheel Initiative.  The property, acquired with grant support from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, will be managed and maintained by the IDNR and opened for outdoor recreation.

“This acquisition is a great example of the value of partnerships among landowners, dedicated conservation organizations like Pheasants Forever and the Clean Energy Community Foundation and state agencies like the Illinois Department of Natural Resources,” said Illinois Department of Natural Resources Acting Director Sam Flood.  “We all know the importance of habitat restoration for wildlife.  If there are no grasses, there are no birds.  With well-planned habitat restoration like that which we have seen and will continue to see on this parcel, we're making a great investment in wildlife and outdoor recreation enhancement.”
The Habitat Wheel Initiative is an Illinois DNR approved landscape scale method for improving and sustaining pheasant, quail and additional wildlife populations.  The newly enrolled Cranfill property joins the two existing Illinois Habitat Wheel Initiatives:  635-acre Sibley property located in Ford County and the 118-acre WhiteField property located in Marshall County.
The Habitat Wheel Initiative uses the land obtained as a way to create a hub within a community.  This hub, open to public hunting, becomes the main location for all wildlife activity throughout the area. 

Pheasants Forever then works with private landowners to enroll acres adjacent or beyond the hub within various conservation programs, such as the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).  Enrolling private land near the hub allows for wildlife movement and distribution throughout the region.
“The Habitat Wheel Initiative was implemented by Pheasants Forever in 2003 as a way to build wildlife habitat on government and private lands,” remarked Tom Schwartz, PF's Illinois director of conservation programs. “We hope this new concept will dramatically increase wildlife populations in the focus area.  PF looks forward to continuing this successful initiative with its partners and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.”
“The Trustees of the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation are delighted to assist with this and other projects that expand wildlife habitat and provide opportunities for sportsmen to enjoy Illinois's great outdoors,” said Chair of the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation Phil Novak.

“The land acquired by Pheasants Forever on the Cranfill property is one of the best habitat partnership acquisitions the Illinois Department of Natural Resources has been a part of,” commented Connie Waggoner, Illinois Department of Natural Resources manager, division of reality and planning.  “Mr. Cranfill's acres are perfect for this initiative, as he had already placed a majority of his acres into the CRP.  The property already has thriving wildlife habitat for pheasants and bobwhite quail and will require little maintenance before it is open for public use.”
“I purchased the land 15 years ago and have steadily worked to make it wildlife friendly through planting food plots and establishing travel lanes,” explained Don Cranfill, previous owner of the property and vice president of the Montgomery County PF Chapter.  “PF was searching for land in our county and this was the best pheasant terrain around.  I am proud of the accomplishments that I have achieved with wild game numbers on the land and expect this to continue under PF, its partners and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.”
The Cranfill property was purchased by Five Illinois Pheasants Forever Chapters, a $250,000 state wildlife incentive grant with matching funds from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources habitat stamp fund and a donation of $280,000 from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation. 


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