By Tom Lindblade

Dear Paddlers:

If the Trial Lawyers have their way "You can't go there anymore" is a phrase we are likely to hear a lot more often. We have already heard it twice. In the last year two favorite outdoor sites in Illinois have been closed to the public as the direct result of landowner fear of liability.

For more than forty years, paddlers and other outdoors people in Illinois had a deal with private land owners which said, in effect,"if I as a landowner allow you free access to my land for recreation (or allow you to paddle through my land) you won't be allowed to sue me.

The deal was called the Recreational Use of Land and Waters Act, it included all recreational activities, meant that landowners didn't have to fear liability, and that a lot of privately owned land and water was made available for recreation. The deal worked very well, and cost the government and the taxpayers nothing.

Everything went well until 2005 when the State Supreme Court struck down the law for technical reasons. That was when the Trial Lawyers proposed new language which excluded all outdoors people except hunters, and meant landowners lost most of their protection from law suites. This change has already resulted in the closure of Draper's Bluff to rock climbers and the closure of the Vermilion River to paddlers.

More closures are inevitable, and they could easily become an epidemic. A bill (HB6072) designed to restore the original protections to landowners was introduced by Rep. Fritchey in February and even though it is supported by 90 organizations and governmental bodies, it is going nowhere because of opposition from the Trial Lawyers, who obviously make money off of unnecessary lawsuits, and
don't like something which would eliminate them.

Contact your State Representative and Senator and urge them to support HB6072
(see below)
Contact the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association and demand that they
get out of the way
ILTA President
Peter J. Flowers, Geneva

click here for legislators

OpenLands Takes the Lead

ImageAt the 2010 Conservation Congress, Lenore Beyer-Clow, Policy Director at Openlands launched a public awareness campaign that offeres the following tools to help restore liability protections:
• Sample Fact Sheet
• Sample Action Alert (General)
• Sample Action Alert for Conservationists
• Sample Action Alert for Educators
• Sample Action Alert for Recreationalists
• Sample Letter to the Editor
• Sample Letter to State Senator and/or Representative
• Sample Web Page Content
• Sample E-mail Requesting Organizational Support
• Supporting Organizations List

click here for Openland's tools

We hope you will keep us informed of any paddling related issues that you may have and we in turn will keep you informed as to what we are doing to make Illinois a Paddler Friendly State


The Illlinois Paddler

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