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Acres for Wildlife Program

Illinois Acres For Wildlife

Division of Wildlife Resources


Illinois wildlife needs help.  Like humans, wild birds, mammals, and other living creatures need space to live and propagate.  Native habitats – the places where animals and plants live – are the key to wildlife’s future.  Unfortunately, these have changed enormously in the state and many wildlife populations have declined at alarming rates as a result.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) is working to enhance habitat on state-owned lands.  But, as the new Illinois Wildlife Action Plan makes clear, wildlife’s future also depends on the 95% of Illinois owned by private landowners.  Wildlife depends on you, the landowner, to provide essential habitat. Whether your property is small or large, you can help.


Take time and learn to share your land with wildlife.  Your efforts will not only benefit wild animals and plants, but you, your family, and friends for years to come.

Conserving and improving habitat is the key.  Help is available to do just that through IDNR's “ILLINOIS ACRES FOR WILDLIFE” program and your local IDNR wildlife biologist.


“Acres for Wildlife” is an IDNR Landowner Assistance Program.  Through “Acres for Wildlife,” landowners receive help in protecting, improving, or developing lasting wildlife habitat on their property.

Key provisions include:

  • the program is strictly voluntary
  • landowners retain complete property control (trespass for any reason is prohibited without landowner permission)
  • there is no cost for IDNR services (or payments for participation).

In return for IDNR assistance, landowners pledge their willingness to protect and improve habitat on their land as they are able. Protecting a minimum of one acre of habitat for at least one year is required.


  Resource Assessment.  A biologist will be happy to discuss with you what is needed on your land.  For larger acreages, the use of aerial photographs and a site visit with the landowner will usually be necessary to properly assess wildlife opportunities.  Depending on the location or complexity desired, some follow-up visits may also be helpful.  

If your land falls within a specially designated Conservation Opportunity Area identified in the Illinois Wildlife Action Plan, our biologists will also help you learn about special opportunities you may have to assist with the conservation and management of unique wildlife species in greatest need of conservation.

Management Plans.  In the end, the goal is to help each landowner understand their land and resources better.  An appropriate management plan to meet wildlife needs for healthy grassland, wetland, woodland, or farmland habitat as appropriate will then be prepared.

In cropland areas, the plan may suggest alterations in farm practices such as delayed mowing or participation in “set-a-side” programs.  Odd areas and undisturbed areas (e.g., around ponds) are especially valuable to farmland wildlife and can be enhanced by plantings or constructing artificial nest structures and brush piles. 


In woodland areas, the plan may suggest changes related to grazing, timber management, the use of prescribed fire, or the control of exotic invasive species. Comparable considerations may be made for wetland and grassland habitats. Expanding existing habitat or developing new habitat will often be a focus of planning.  Literature regarding the habits and needs of specific animals or plants may also be provided.

Tree Seed or Seedlings.  IDNR can often provide native grass and forb seed, or tree and shrub seedlings at no charge for areas you decide to plant or otherwise enhance.

A Sign.  For all rural landowners who qualify, an attractive sign is also provided to recognize your contributions. The signs also encourage others to recognize the value of wildlife.

  Equipment.  On a limited basis, special equipment is available to assist in getting improvements you undertake “on the ground.”

  Financial Help.  Biologists will advise on cost-sharing programs such as the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP), Landowner Incentive Program (LIP), Private Land Incentive Program (PLIP), Conservation Practices Program (CPP), Partners for Wildlife (PW), and Forestry Development Act (FDA).

Share your land with wildlife.  Without sufficient grassland, woodland, wetland, and farmland habitat, wildlife will disappear and we will all be poorer.

  If you are interested in establishing or managing wildlife habitat we invite you to complete an application form. Once submitted, you will be contacted by a district wildlife biologist who will help you identify your opportunities to manage. (Your request in no way obligates you to participate in the program.)

AFW Application

Click here for District Wildlife Biologist Contact Information

Division of Wildlife Resources

Mission Statement
 The Illinois Wildlife Conservation Plan
Surveys & Harvest Reports
Acres for Wildlife
Technical Reports

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