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National Wildlife Reserve proposal advances

Several years of grassroots organizing for a National Wildlife Refuge linking rare natural communities in northeast Illinois and southeast Wisconsin moves forward with a series of public hearings by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, starting today in Woodstock.

The USFWS approved a preliminary project proposal for the Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge in April and is conducting a feasibility study, looking at an area of 10,000 to 30,000 acres in Lake and McHenry counties in Illinois and Kenosha, Racine, and Walworth counties in Wisconsin.

There’s a meeting today (October 12) in Woodstock and another tomorrow at the Glacial Park visitor center in Ringwood, Illinois, with further meetings scheduled in Bristol (October 20) and Lake Geneva, Wisconsin (October 21).

Hackmatack would connect  more than 60  publicly- and privately-owned parks, preserves, and conservation areas in the two states, add protection for habitat corridors, and demonstrate the potential for “significant landscape-scale conservation,” according to Openlands.

It would include a variety of natural communities including oak savannas, tallgrass prairies, and wetlands, supporting scores of sensitive wildlife populations – and it would expand opportunities for fishing, paddling, bird watching and other outdoor activities.

The reserve would be within 90 miles of Chicago, Rockford, Milwaukee and Madison.

The Friends of Hackmatack, a group of local citizens, has mobilized support from an array of civic and conservation groups and won the backing of the two state’s governors and congressional delegations.

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Category: environment

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