Governor Quinn Signs Recreational Liability Bill

August 28, 2013

On August 23, Governor Pat Quinn signed into law a bill that will increase protections for those who open their land to the public for conservation and recreational opportunities. He recognized Openlands and our partners, the Illinois Environmental Council, and The Nature Conservancy, for seven years of hard work and advocacy to make this vision a reality.

Senate Bill 1042, which passed unanimously in the General Assembly, limits liability for landowners who allow the public to freely access their property for activities such as bird watching, biking, hiking, fishing, and paddling. This law will bring Illinois in line with other states that offer such liability protection.

“Our state is full of natural treasures and many of those fall on private land,” Governor Quinn said. “Increasing landowner protections will boost the confidence of our residents who want to allow public access, but have reservations about their own liability. This new law is a win-win for landowners and outdoor enthusiasts.”

This bill, sponsored by State Senator Don Harmon (D–Oak Park) and State Representative Ann Williams (D-Chicago), specifically extends liability protections for landowners who permit the public to freely access property for recreational or conservation purposes. Currently, liability protections exist only for hunting and recreational shooting sports, which the new law will maintain.

“Thank you to the advocates for laying this groundwork for this important day,” St. Rep. Williams said at the signing.

Marc Miller, Director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, was also on hand for the signing. “Openlands, the Illinois Environmental Council, and The Nature Conservancy came together with one voice, working with legislators to make this happen,” he said. “It’s a true victory.”

Seven years ago, Illinois became the only state to restrict liability protections for landowners who opened their property up to the public free of cost for recreational use. For the past several years, public outdoor recreational opportunities have been diminished on private lands because of rising insurance costs and liability concerns of private landowners. This bill restores these protections to landowners.

“Openlands has worked with our partners to reinstate protections for generous private landowners who open their land to the public for recreation,” Openlands Policy Director Lenore Beyer-Clow said. “We are excited that this law will offer new opportunities for people to connect to nature and enjoy Illinois’ beautiful open spaces.”

This legislation gives the people of Illinois more opportunities to connect with nature, to pursue recreational activities and to engage in conservation. Openlands commends private landowners, land trusts, and public agencies that open their land, providing chances to hike, bike, fish, watch birds, and perhaps have a moment of respite from our busy lives out in nature.

The new law takes effect January 1, 2014.

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