Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge

After more than eight years of dedicated efforts by many individuals and local conservation groups (most notably, the Friends of Hackmatack), the Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge was established in July 2012. However, to legally establish a Refuge, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is required to own land, yet no federal dollars had been appropriated. The McHenry County Conservation Foundation, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, and Openlands, partnered to purchase the first parcel of land within the Refuge boundaries. On November 6, 2012 the 11,200 acre Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge was formally established through the transfer of a 12-acre conservation easement from the McHenry County Conservation Foundation.  The McHenry County Conservation Foundation helped purchase the cornerstone of the nation’s 557th National Wildlife Refuge.

The Foundation was thrilled to participate in this significant way in order to bring to fruition this important conservation and open space project for McHenry County and the surrounding region. We recognized the natural beauty and unique character of this landscape and the diversity of flora and fauna it supports.  This land will link with and expand upon existing parcels already protected by the McHenry County Conservation District (Illinois) and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (Wisconsin). This network of protected open spaces will ultimately provide larger blocks of critical habitat for avian species such as the dickcissel, Henslow's sparrow and short-eared owl which are area-sensitive species dependent upon grasslands, the savanna-loving red-headed woodpecker, and wetland-dependent species such as the king rail, least bittern and the Federally-endangered whooping crane. The National Wildlife Refuge will help emphasize the importance of the land and its natural resources we have spent decades supporting and preserving.

The Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge will become the closest refuge to the Chicago, Rockford and Milwaukee metro areas, meeting the over-arching goal of establishing Wildlife Refuges in areas easily accessible to people living in large, urban areas.  Indeed, the landscape of the Hackmatack area of interest is a national treasure worth preserving for future generations! The refuge will bring tourism, jobs, and new economic opportunities to our region, as well as provide new educational and recreational opportunities for the citizens of both states.

You can learn more  about Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge by visiting the Friends of Hackmatack website: http://hackmatacknwr.org/