Press Releases

For Immediate Release - Bill to Protect Illinois Landowners Nears Passage

May 23, 2013

Brandon Hayes, Openlands, 312-863-6260 /
Susan Donovan, The Nature Conservancy of Illinois, 312-580-2160 /
Jennifer Walling, Illinois Environmental Council, 217-493-9455 /


***Conservation Organizations, Legislators, and Illinois Trial Lawyers Association Reach Agreement on Bill’s Language***

(Chicago – May 23, 2013) Seven years after Illinois became the only state in the U.S. to restrict liability protections for landowners who allow the public recreational access to their land—for activities such as fishing, hiking, or birding—a bill to restore such protections nears passage. Conservation organizations, Openlands, The Nature Conservancy of Illinois, and the Illinois Environmental Council, worked closely with Senator Don Harmon and Representative Ann Williams to negotiate an agreement with the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association on the language of the bill. All parties reached agreement on legislative language to restore liability protections for people who open their land to the public for recreation and conservation.

For 40 years, private landowners who opened their land to the public for activities such as bird watching, fishing, or hiking were protected from liability. In 2005, the law was changed to protect only landowners who invited people onto their land for hunting and recreational shooting. The pending legislation, SB1042, House Amendment 1 sponsored by Representative Ann Williams, will cover landowners who permit the public onto their land for all other activities while retaining coverage for hunting and shooting. The legislation encourages landowners to offer public opportunities to hike, bike, fish, watch birds, restore the landscape, and hold nature classes.

“Illinois has some spectacular places to go hiking, camping, kayaking, boating, and bird watching,” said Senator Don Harmon. “This agreement, which is the result of months of negotiations, should provide protection for the generous landowners who open their properties to the public.”

“Private landowners provide a public service to the citizens of Illinois by offering people the use of their land for recreation and conservation for free,” said Representative Ann Williams. “Protecting landowners costs the state nothing and provides more access to nature for more people.”

“In 2005, Illinois became the only state in the U.S. that didn’t provide protection for private landowners,” said Lenore Beyer-Clow, Policy Director at Openlands “This bill will reverse the trend of severely restricting or eliminating public access to beautiful open spaces across Illinois.”

“Draper’s Bluff in southern Illinois, for example, closed public opportunities for climbing due to the loss of liability protection,” said Susan Donovan, The Nature Conservancy of Illinois. “This bill rectifies such concerns and motivates landowners to extend recreational opportunities in our state that would otherwise be out of the public’s reach.”

Founded in 1963, Openlands is one of the nation’s oldest and most successful metropolitan conservation organizations, having helped secure, protect, and provide public access to more than 55,000 acres of land for parks, forest preserves, land and water greenway corridors, and urban gardens.

The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect the land and water on which all life depends. To date, the Conservancy and its more than one million members have helped protect 130 million acres worldwide.

The Illinois Environmental Council has served as the environmental community’s eyes, ears, and voice in the state legislature since 1975. IEC has nearly 60 member organizations.

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