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updated: 5/15/2014 7:58 PM

Lawmaker questions importing prairie chickens

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Associated Press

SPRINGFIELD -- 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.

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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 federal dollars largely fund the three-year $450,000 program. He says hunting and fishing license fees along with private donations pay the rest.

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