State wildlife agencies commonly offer private landowners cost-share and technical assistance to improve habitat, but the cost-effectiveness and long-term outcomes of these efforts are rarely evaluated. In 1998, we began a 3-part, statewide evaluation of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources' (IDNR; USA) Private Land Wildlife Habitat Management Program (hereafter the program) as it functioned from 1986 to 1996. We sent a mail-back questionnaire to IDNR biologists to collect information on their perceptions of the program. We sent a separate mail-back questionnaire to private landholders who participated in the program to ascertain their demographic profile, motivations for participation, and attitudes regarding the program. We also conducted on-site evaluations of private properties that were managed under the guidance of the program. We conducted our study to 1) assess if the program effectively assisted participants in establishing and maintaining wildlife habitat, and 2) determine factors associated with optimal management of wildlife habitat on private lands to refine the program and improve effectiveness. We found significant differences between participants in their land use priorities and motivations for managing wildlife and in the resources available to participants to establish and maintain habitat. Our results indicate that although financial incentives may increase participation in private lands initiatives, improving technical and material assistance to landholders is essential for maintaining quality wildlife habitat over the long-term.
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Vol. 73 • No. 6