See the EA
The Environmental Assessment (EA) completed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is provided here in portable document format (pdf). To see the files, you need Acrobat Reader software, and it is available for free on the Adobe website. The EA is provided as an executive summary, a complete document (a large file), and also by chapters/appendices (in much smaller files).
Executive Summary Hackmatack EA (2.6 MB)
Complete Hackmatack EA (10.4 MB)
Hackmatack EA by chapters/appendices:
Chapter 1: Purpose and Need for Action (693 KB)
Chapter 2: Description of Alternatives (2.5 MB)
Chapter 3: Affected Environment (1.2 MB)
Chapter 4: Alternatives and Environmental Consequences (286 KB)
Appendix A: Land Protection Plan (2 MB)
Appendix B: Pre-acquisition Compatibility Determinations (59 KB)
Appendix C: Conceptual Management Plan (113 KB)
Appendix D: Species List (1.4 MB)
Appendix E: Bibliography (55 KB)
Appendix F: Planning and New or Expanded National Wildlife Refuge – FAQs (2.2 MB)
Appendix G: List of Preparers (51 KB)
Appendix H: Glossary of Terms and Abbreviations Used (63 KB)
Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge
Photo Credit: Steve Hillebrand
On July 10, 2012, the Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS, Service) provided authorization to establish Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge (NWR, refuge) in southeastern Wisconsin and northeastern Illinois. On November 6, 2013 the 11,200 acre Hackmatack NWR was formally established through the transfer of a conservation easement to the Service. The easement was purchased for the Service by Openlands through a donation from the Friends of Hackmatack and the McHenry County Conservation Fund.
The Environmental Assessment (EA) was released for public review in March 2012. During the comment period the refuge hosted two open house events to obtain comments. Over 400 people attended one or both of these events. By the conclusion of the comment period we received over three thousand written responses by organizations and individuals. Approximately 2,500 of these responses were from an Internet write-in campaign by a non-government organization (NGO). Nearly all respondents endorsed a decision to establish the refuge.
A response to public comments section (pdf, 22 KB) is included in the final EA.
The EA presents four alternatives designed to benefit specific wildlife and plant habitats within the original Study Area. The boundaries were formulated based on the watersheds, existing conservation areas, habitat requirements of desired wildlife species, public roads, and comments received from the public. The recommended protection levels (e.g., fee acquisition, conservation easement, private landowner initiatives, etc.) were based on the Service’s policy to acquire the least interest in land necessary to meet refuge goals.
The preferred alternative identified by the planning team is Alternative C: Cores and Corridors. Alternative C would link and expand upon existing conservation areas to benefit migratory birds and endangered species. The larger block sizes associated with the cores would provide sufficient habitat for nesting grassland birds and waterfowl that are sensitive to fragmented habitat and edges. The corridors would assist terrestrial migration of small mammals, herptiles, and plants that may be impacted by a changing climate. See the Authorized Hackmatack NWR map (pdf, 107 KB) for Hackmatack authorized boundaries.
Land conservation methods for the core areas (11,200 acres) would include fee, conservation easement, and NGOs/private opportunities aimed at creating contiguous natural habitat. The conservation corridors would connect the cores primarily through use of partnership efforts and to a lesser degree with fee-simple acquisition. Specific, narrow corridors can’t be identified at this time as detailed land status and partnerships would determine the ultimate siting. However, a continuous corridor of a minimum of 600 feet wide would be considered complete.
Hackmatack NWR was formally established on November 6, 2012 when the Service acquired a donated easement within the authorized boundaries of the refuge. Next steps include hiring a manager who will be stationed in office space provided by McHenry County Conservation District at their Lost Valley Visitor Center in Glacial Park. However, due to budget sequestration cuts and an associated hiring freeze, the hiring process is currently on hold. The Service will seek funding for future acquisition of lands within the refuge but it is uncertain when funding may be available. In the meantime the Service will continue to work with partners to explore all possible options for conservation within the authorized boundaries. Completion of the refuge will likely take many years and will be dependent upon the availability of willing sellers and funding. Property will only be acquired from willing sellers or those interested in donating lands.
In 2010, the Service began exploring the possibility of establishing a new national wildlife refuge in southeast Wisconsin and northeast Illinois. The Service released a news release (pdf, 46 KB) announcing the availability of the EA on March 21, 2012.
The Acting Director of the Service approved a Preliminary Project Proposal authorizing the Service to further study the proposal and produce an EA. The original Study Area encompassed 350,000 acres; however, this area is much larger than the refuge proposed in the preferred alternative of the EA:10,000 to 30,000 acres of drained wetland basins, historic prairie, and forest habitats as well as linking existing conservation lands. Conserving habitat corridors between existing protected parcels would enhance the conservation value of those individual parcels.
The original Study Area (pdf, 473 KB) encompassed more than 60 publicly and privately owned parks, preserves, and conservation areas with natural ecosystems totaling about 23,000 acres. Many of the parks and preserves in the Study Area are oriented toward habitat protection rather than primarily recreation. As Service planners evaluated the proposed refuge, they looked for ways to complement these existing conservation lands.
The following maps provide a general overview of the original Study Area by depicting existing conservation lands, showing existing land cover via an aerial photo and according to the National Land Cover Database (2001), soil drainage, and potential natural vegetation based upon soils.
Existing Conservation Lands (1.1 MB): This map includes the refuge Study Area boundary in black plus conservation lands currently owned by the State of Illinois, the State of Wisconsin, counties in both states, non-governmental organizations, land conservancies, and private individuals. Because land ownership is dynamic, some existing conservation lands may not be shown and some areas may have changed in status since this data were obtained.
National Landcover Data (2001) (1.7 MB): This is a national database of landcover developed in 2001. Due to the scale of this mapping project, there may be errors when viewed at a small scale or due to land changes over time. This map includes the refuge Study Area boundary in black.
Study Area Aerial Photograph (1.5 MB): Based upon 2007 photography, this image shows the Study Area in true color, with the darkest areas being open water, forests in darker green and fields in shades of green, tan, and brown. This map includes the refuge Study Area boundary in yellow.
Soil Drainage Map (1.7 MB): This map is based upon the natural drainage characteristics of Natural Resources Conservation Service-defined soils. Areas in black are generally open water areas. The darker the blue, the more poorly drained the soils are. The darker the tan/brown, the more well drained the soils are. This map does not reflect areas where drainage has been altered by artificial drainage. The map includes the refuge Study Area boundary in red.
Potential Natural Vegetation Map (1.5 MB): This map is based upon Natural Resources Conservation Service-defined soils characteristics and the natural vegetation that is favored on these soils due to wetness, slope, pH, and other characteristics. The vegetation is assumed to be a good approximation of what the natural vegetation would have been at a time before European settlement. This map includes the refuge Study Area boundary in black.
In response to comments the Service has received on the proposal to establish a national wildlife refuge, Conservation Planner Gary Muehlenhardt sent information to individuals and snowmobiling organizations within the project area. Both the letter (693 KB) and the information sheet (1 MB) are available in pdf format.
A proposal to establish a national wildlife refuge generates a number of questions. We've gathered some of the questions people ask the most often and the Service's responses. If you have a question that isn't addressed, please let us know. See the previous section for contact information. Frequently Asked Questions (pdf, 316 KB)
We appreciate the interest and active involvement so many people have demonstrated in this planning process!
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Division of Conservation Planning
Attn: Hackmatack NWR
5600 American Blvd. West
Bloomington, MN 55437-1458