#125. Access Illinois OutdoorsPosted on | The Agurban
Access Illinois Outdoors is a program in which outdoor enthusiasts are matched with private landowners for whitetail deer hunting, turkey hunting, and other outdoor recreational experiences such as hiking, bird watching, fishing, camping, trail riding, biking, photography, etc. The program was started in 1994 and is managed by the Two Rivers Resource, Conservation and Development, Inc.
Illinois landowners wishing to enroll their land complete an application that outlines what their land has available. There is no fee for landowners to enroll in the program. People wanting to hunt, hike, camp, bird watch, take pictures, fish or pursue other outdoor activities complete an application and send it to Access Illinois Outdoors along with a $25 membership fee. An Access employee will match the applicants with landowners. Landowners typically charge an access fee or trespass fee to access their property.
Since the program’s inception in 1994, over 540 landowners have joined, representing 250,000 acres in 48 counties throughout Illinois. Over 2,800 visitors, from 39 states, Canada and Germany, have enrolled in the program. Landowners in the program earned over $475,000 last year by charging visitors for access. The overall impact from the program was $3 million in just one county.
Brenda Middendorf, Coordinator for the Access Illinois Outdoors Program, recently commented, “This has been a great economic tool for our landowners. Land values have increased exponentially in the past 30 years with the increased recreational value of private land. Illinois is 95% privately owned, so opening up this private land to public use has really helped the local landowners, many of whom are farmers trying to create added income from wooded property.
“The local economy benefits from visitors coming to town. The visitors need lodging, food, gas and hunting supplies. The state benefits by the extra hunting permits and fees that are collected. To our knowledge, no other state has a program like ours.”