Hackmatack Named Chicago Region’s First National Wildlife Refuge

The creation of a new Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge is “a wonderful chance for millions of people in the Chicago and Milwaukee area to get outdoors and enjoy nature,” Beth White, Chicago Director of The Trust for Public Land, said today.

Her comments came shortly after the announcement by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar that the Interior Department had approved the addition of the Hackmatack refuge to the nation’s system of National Wildlife Refuges.

“Creation of this refuge on the Illinois-Wisconsin border will help protect a beautiful landscape of prairies, oaks, and pristine streams, and would be the first refuge in the greater Chicago region,” Ms. White said. “It is within an hour’s drive for the 12 million people who live in the region between Chicago, Milwaukee, and Madison, Wisconsin.”

“Today’s announcement began with strong support from local residents of the area which will be covered by the Hackmatack NWR,” said Ms. White. “We look forward to working with Friends of Hackmatack and other supporters to help protect this property in the years ahead.”

Salazar’s announcement came after a review by the Fish and Wildlife Service. The FWS will use a variety of tools to protect the area, including the purchase of land from willing sellers using the Land and Water Conservation Fund and other federal and non-federal sources; agreements with landowners, known as easements, that protect the conservation value of the land; and private stewardship agreements aimed at creating contiguous natural corridors. These options would protect the rights of the private landowners while providing unparalleled benefits to the public.

The Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge became possible through the work of an array of local, regional and conservation organizations, chiefly Friends of Hackmatack, the local citizens whose vision and work was the project’s impetus; Openlands; the Illinois chapter of the Sierra Club; and The Trust for Public Land.

The Hackmatack project area is part of President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative to develop a 21st century conservation and recreation agenda. The Land and Water Conservation Fund is the federal government’s main source of money for protecting land. It is funded by royalties paid by energy companies in exchange for oil and gas extraction from federal offshore leases.

The Trust for Public Land is a national conservation organization which protects land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and natural lands. Founded in 1972, The Trust for Public Land has completed more than 5,200 conservation projects in 47 states.