Illinois imported prairie chickens on 16 flights

SPRINGFIELD, IL (AP) - An Illinois wildlife agency has offered details on its $520,000 program to import prairie chickens from Kansas to the state using state planes.

An Illinois Department of Natural Resources spokesman said Friday that biologists took 16 flights during March and April to transport 91 birds to a habitat preserve near Effingham. The 16 flights cost a total of about $7,400.

This is the first year of a three-year program that's largely funded by federal dollars.

Republican state Rep. Bill Mitchel of Forsyth on Thursday called the program "bizarre" and questioned the cost during a heated 10-hour House budget debate.

But agency spokesman Chris Young says the state and federal wildlife grants can only be used for conservation-related efforts. He says the greater prairie chicken population is endangered in Illinois.

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