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Springfield, Ill. – June 24, 2008 – Eligible Illinois landowners now have the opportunity to conserve valuable wildlife habitat by enrolling their property into the Illinois State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) program. As part of the continuous enrollment portion of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), the SAFE program seeks to enroll 24,600 acres of wildlife habitat in Illinois.

The Illinois SAFE was developed by Pheasants Forever (PF), the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (DNR), The Nature Conservancy and the Illinois Audubon Society and aims to strengthen conservation efforts by offering incentives for landowners to enroll privately owned grasslands and other wildlife habitats into the program. In addition to annual rental payments, SAFE allows for continuous enrollment, a signing incentive bonus payment, and additional cost-sharing for establishing new habitats.

Through the enrollment of critical habitat that encourages the development of grassland wildlife, the SAFE program will have numerous positive impacts on the environment. While enhancing habitat for pheasants, quail and other species, there will be a large-scale restoration of grasslands and forest areas that will result in improved water quality through the reduction of soil erosion, sediment, pesticide and nutrient runoff. An increased abundance of wildlife will also be seen due to the reestablishment of native grasses and forbs that benefit many endangered and declining species.

Target enrollment areas are located in the following counties: Bureau, Carroll, Champaign, Clay, Clinton, De Kalb, Dewitt, Effingham, Fayette, Ford, Henry, Iroquois, Jasper, Knox, LaSalle, Lee, Livingston, Logan, Marion, Marshall, Mason, McLean, Montgomery, Ogle, Richland, Sangamon, Stephenson, Tazewell, Vermilion, Washington, Whiteside, Winnebago, Woodford. The recommended enrollment areas were founded upon Illinois biologists’ concern about decreasing areas of habitat for species that required more widespread grasslands and wetlands throughout the year, including pheasants and quail.

To determine if property is within a target enrollment area and to enroll in SAFE, landowners should visit their local USDA Service Center. For additional information on the Illinois SAFE project, go to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources website at www.dnr.state.il.us.

Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever are non-profit conservation organizations dedicated to the protection and enhancement of pheasant, quail, and other wildlife populations in North America through habitat improvement, land management, public awareness, and education. PF/QF has more than 127,000 members in 700 local chapters across the continent.

For additional information about Pheasants Forever, please visit www.PheasantsForever.org