I suppose if your title began with the word "Lesser," you might look for anything to boost your self esteem. Based upon a story by Scott Reeder at Illinois Watchdog, I've got to figure these prairie chickens have got to feel a little better about themselves when they realize how much money is being spent to bring them to Illinois.

State aircraft are flying to Kansas and transporting prairie chickens back to the Land of Lincoln. And at a time state lawmakers are looking at raising the state income tax, Illinois state employees have been hiking across Kansas trapping these chickens.

Now, we're not talking about just a couple of chickens, here. Pilots employed by the State of Illinois have been to Kansas and back 14 times this year alone. After trapping the prairie chickens (an endangered species in Illinois) and flying them back, the birds are delivered to downstate Jasper and Marion counties.

So, where did this idea come from?

“Illinois is the Prairie State and prairie chickens are an endangered species here, so we thought it would be a good idea to bring them back,” said Scott Simpson, site manager for Prairie Ridge State Natural Area in Newton, Ill.

The feds are chipping in $337,000 toward the program and the state will pay $117,000. Some of the cost to state government may be offset by private fundraising done by the Audubon Society, Simpson said.

That puts the total cost of the program at $455,000 for the next three years.

I think it might be fair to ask why we're doing this, especially when our state is so deeply in debt, looking at a mountain of unpaid bills, and trying to make a temporary income tax rate permanent. And, where do we get the $1,166 figure?

So far this year, the state has relocated 50 cocks and 41 hens. That puts the cost of the program at $1,166 per bird.

Is it just me, or does anyone else think we could allocate those funds toward something else?

This is an egregious abuse of tax dollars,” said state Rep. Bill Mitchell, R-Forsyth. “I don’t care if the money is coming from a grant or not. It doesn’t seem like a smart way to do business.”

Sigh. That's the Illinois way. Well, since we're dropping four figures a piece on these guys, let's learn about them, shall we?