Sunday's for the Birds: A New Wildlife Refuge

Today my guest is Lenore Beyer-Clow, Policy Director of Openlands. Read about the incredible efforts made by a group of citizens to turn a piece of land near Chicago into a National Wildlife Refuge.  Keep your fingers crossed; the decision will be made this fall. Log on to the link below for more information and to show your support. When habitats are protected, we all win.

Protecting Grassland Birds through the creation of the Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge
By Lenore Beyer-Clow, Policy Director, Openlands

One of the most exciting land conservation opportunities to come along in a long time is the possible creation of a new National Wildlife Refuge on the Illinois- Wisconsin border, called Hackmatack. The name is derived from a Native American word for Tamarack tree.
About seven years ago, a small group of local citizens, the Friends of Hackmatack, talked about raising the importance of the unique biodiversity, natural communities and plant and animal species of the area they cared deeply about to national status by pursuing creation of a refuge. Bolstered by regional and state organizations such as Openlands, Trust for Public Land and the Sierra Club as well as local governments and environmental groups, the group began by talking anyone who would listen about idea. In the fall of 2009, with the support of the Burnham Centennial campaign and the governors, senators and some representatives from both states, a request went to the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to study the area for a potential refuge. In April of 2010 the USFWS drew a line around 350,000 acres from Lake Geneva, Wisconsin to Woodstock, Illinois to study appropriateness for a refuge.
The study (Environmental Assessment) was released for public comment in March of 2012 and recommended the establishment of a refuge focusing on cores and corridors in a smaller footprint and protecting about 11,000 acres of land. The primary goals of the refuge are to protect several migratory bird species by establishing large blocks of protected grasslands, wet prairies and natural stream watercourses.  The Service is especially interested in migratory bird species such as Henslow’s Sparrow, Short-eared Owl, Upland Sandpiper, Dickcissel, Red-headed Woodpecker, Pied-billed Grebe and Least Bittern. The area is also along the eastern flyway of the Whooping Crane population. Whoopers have been spotted in wetlands in the area.  Other goals include recreational opportunities and access to natural areas for urban populations in the Chicagoland area. Public comment was overwhelmingly positive in support of the refuge.
 Now we wait for the USFWS to make the final determination. Once the approval comes from the Director of the USFWS in Washington, the Service must take ownership interest in a parcel of land within the boundary for the refuge to be established. We hope to hear by the fall of 2012 if the dream of Friends of Hackmatack has become a reality.

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