Tuesday, January 31st, 2023
Tuesday, January 31st, 2023

Breaking News for

Sportsmen Since 1967

New refuge goes under Fed review

Richmond, Ill. – A newly proposed national wildlife refuge would
include parts of Illinois and help bolster wildlife habitat in the
state.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has agreed to study
establishing the refuge, which would be located along the Illinois
and Wisconsin border. The area being considered includes 10,000 to
30,000 acres of wetlands, forests and prairie within Lake and
McHenry counties and the Wisconsin counties of Kenosha, Racine and
Walworth.

At this point, the proposed area would be called the Hackmatack
National Wildlife Refuge.

As the state struggles with budgetary constraints, DNR Director
Marc Miller said such a federal effort would be of great value.

“In these difficult budget times we are pleased to be able to
work with our partners in conservation like the USFWS to meet our
state’s goals,” Miller said.

Why Lake and McHenry counties? USFWS officials said that a
number of factors go into determining locations for new wildlife
refuges. Areas with significant wildlife values or the potential
for restoration of wildlife are seen as potential sites.

USFWS Acting Director Rowan Gould approved a Preliminary Project
Proposal to study the feasibility of creating the Hackmatack
National Wildlife Refuge in April. It was the first administrative
step in the process of determining if establishing a wildlife
refuge is appropriate.

Friends of Hackmatack, a private group started in Illinois, is
credited with pushing the idea of the refuge.

After a great deal of discussion, the governors of both Illinois
and Wisconsin and several lawmakers requested that the USFWS look
into the possibility of such an endeavor.

Preparing the necessary environmental assessment will take about
two years, Chuck Traxler, spokesman for the USFWS, said. Then, the
USFWS will at some point make a recommendation on whether a refuge
should be established.

Until then, USFWS staff and consultants will be gathering basic
biological information about the area. In roughly eight months to
one year, public hearings will be held to gauge residents’
opinions.

While the refuge would cover 10,000 to 30,000 acres, the area of
study encompasses some 350,000 acres, or 54 square miles, centered
at Richmond, a small town located just a couple of miles south of
the Wisconsin border.

According to the USFWS, the area of study includes more than 60
publicly and privately owned parks, preserves, and conservation
areas. The proposed study area provides habitat for 109 species of
concern, including federally and state-listed threatened and
endangered species and USFWS Birds of Conservation Concern. If
approved, it would be the first refuge in the Midwest since 2004,
when Glacier Ridge National Wildlife Refuge was created in
Minnesota.

The cost of the project could range from $15 million to $45
million, according to USFWS estimates.

Hunting and fishing would likely be allowed on the refuge, USFWS
officials said.

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