Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge Approved for North Suburbs, Wisconsin

The Chicago region gets its first national wildlife refuge, which runs from Wisconsin into northern Illinois, including parts of McHenry and Lake counties.

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar  announced he has authorized the establishment of Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge in southeastern Wisconsin and northeastern Illinois, eventually providing up to 11,200 acres of habitat for wildlife as well as outdoor recreational opportunities within easy driving distance or millions of people.

“When President Obama unveiled his America’s Great Outdoors initiative two years ago, we set out to re-energize a conservation ethic for the 21st century and to help Americans reconnect to the natural world,” Salazar said at a gathering of conservation stakeholders. “Thanks in large measure to the work of local communities and stakeholders, the creation of Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge will help conserve wetlands and prairies in Wisconsin and Illinois, while offering Americans a place to enjoy the great outdoors.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will establish the refuge on land or conservation easements purchased from willing sellers. Ultimately, the refuge is expected to include land on both sides of the Wisconsin-Illinois border between Milwaukee and Chicago.

The refuge, which will not be officially established until the first parcel of land is purchased, will provide for restoration of wetlands, prairie and oak savanna habitat and provide a home for 109 species of animals and plants that are of concern. The list includes 49 birds, five fishes, five mussels, one amphibian, two reptiles and 47 plants.

The Service will also provide ample environmental education and recreational opportunities for visitors, including the 3.5 million people within 30 miles of the refuge.

“Today’s announcement is really about the power of partnerships,” said Service Director Dan Ashe, who last month authorized the refuge’s boundaries. “After important input from the public, including conservation leaders, hunters and anglers, and members of the local communities, we’re taking an important step forward to protect this key habitat and make the area available for generations to come.”

Land conservation methods for four core areas, including up to 11,200 acres in total, could include conservation easements or purchases from willing sellers, and private initiatives and partnerships aimed at creating contiguous natural habitat. The boundaries are based on the watersheds, existing conservation areas, habitat requirements for wildlife species of concern, public roads, and comments received from the public.

As is the case with the 556 national wildlife refuges nationwide, hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, photography, environmental education and interpretation would be priority uses of the refuge.

As detailed in an Interim Comprehensive Management Plan, released as part of the Environmental Assessment, large and small game and waterfowl hunting opportunities likely would be offered on refuge lands after a suitable amount of land is acquired.

To learn more, visit www.fws.gov/midwest/planning/Hackmatack/

To learn more about the National Wildlife Refuge System, visit www.fws.gov/refuges

This information came from a U.S. Dept. of the Interior press release.


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