Feb 13, 2010

Friends of Hackmatack Work for Creation of New Refuge

Map of Hackmatack NWRThe Friends of Hackmatack are working to build support for the creation of Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge in the Chicago Metro area (about 60 miles from Chicago and 50 miles from Milwaukee).

According to the members:

We are a group of local citizens from Walworth County, Wisconsin and McHenry County, Illinois, working on a rare opportunity to bring a National Wildlife Refuge to the Chicago Metro area to add to the handful of urban refuges nationwide, building on the commitment of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to develop an informed and involved citizenry that will support fish and wildlife conservation through recreation, scientific research, and environmental education in and near cities.

Our mission is to facilitate the establishment of the Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge in the counties of Walworth, Wisconsin and McHenry, Illinois. The refuge will conserve our area’s unique natural landscapes, plants and wildlife; link existing open space areas; create recreational opportunities and provide long-term economic benefits to the residents of our region.

We envision a national wildlife refuge that recognizes, protects and restores the rare natural communities, unusual glacial landforms, high quality waters and abundant native plants and animals of the bi-state region.

“Hack-ma-tack” is an Algonquin Indian word for the Tamarack tree, and the Friends have worked with Wisconsin and Illinois resource agencies to establish a “study area” for proposal to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to create the Hackmatack NWR.

According to the latest news update on the Friends of Hackmatack website:

In late 2009, both Illinois Governor Quinn and Wisconsin Governor Doyle sent letters to USFWS Director Sam Hamilton requesting the service conduct a study to assess the feasibility of establishing a National Wildlife Refuge in the bi-state area of Southeastern Wisconsin and Northeastern Illinois in order to protect remnant biologically significant communities in this rapidly developing area.

In mid-December USFWS regional staff spent two days visiting the area and gathering information. (Illinois and Wisconsin are in USFWS Region 3 which has its headquarters in St. Paul, MN.) Region 3 staff prepared a Preliminary Project Proposal for the proposed refuge which they submitted to USFWS headquarters in Washington DC at the end of January. If this preliminary review of the project is positive, Director Hamilton will direct USFWS staff to launch a more intensive study.

Visit the Friends of Hackmatack website to sign their petition in support of the refuge and to see their attractive refuge brochure (PDF). You can also find them on Facebook.

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