Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced today that he has authorized the establishment of Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge in southeastern Wisconsin and northeastern Illinois. The refuge will eventually provide up to 11,200 acres of habitat for wildlife as well as outdoor recreational opportunities within easy driving distance of millions of people.
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.
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.
Read more at the following links and watch this video from the Friends of Hackmatack to see how much local support there is for this refuge. And congratulations to all those citizens who worked hard to make this happen: