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A birdbrain idea? Some lawmakers cluck about prairie chicken plan

There’s another reason to squawk about Illinois government spending: Birds.

Prairie chickens are being flown by pilots, not by their own power, into Illinois from Kansas as part of a program to restore the fowl to the Land of Lincoln.

It’s not cheap at more than $1,000 per endangered prairie chicken, as this story via Reboot Illinois explains.

“Illinois is the Prairie State and prairie chickens are an endangered species here, so we thought it would be a good idea to bring them back,” said Scott Simpson, site manager for Prairie Ridge State Natural Area in Newton.

The report says the bulk of money for this program is being plucked from federal funding, but Illinois will come up with about $117,000 in scratch to meet the $455,000 pricetag for the the conservation project.

UPDATE FROM THE ASSOCIATED PRESS:

A state lawmaker has grilled Democratic legislators about spending money to use a state plane to fly prairie chickens to south-central Illinois from Kansas.

Forsyth Republican state Rep. Bill Mitchell’s comments came Thursday during a contentious House budget debate.

Illinois Department of Natural Resource spokesman Chris Young says the greater prairie chicken is a threatened species. He says the state started a program this spring to bring the chickens to the Prairie Ridge State Natural Area near Effingham to increase their dwindling population. Young says the Kansas chickens are needed to improve genetic diversity. The state has brought about 90 chickens to Illinois on multiple flights.

Young says hunting and fishing license fees along with private donations pay the rest.