The Midwest Region of the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) formally established the Kankakee National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area (NWR&CA) on May 25, 2016 with the acceptance of a 66-acre donation from Friends of the Kankakee, an organization dedicated to the establishment of a national wildlife refuge in the Kankakee River Basin.
A planning process that concluded with an Environmental Assessment (EA) and Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) authorized the Grand Kankakee Marsh National Wildlife Refuge in 1999 in both Illinois and Indiana. The Friends group formed shortly after the refuge was approved. Since then, they have been acquiring property for conservation with the intent of transferring it to the Service to establish the refuge at the appropriate time. Due to lack of funding and other planning priorities, the Service put this project on hold until recently.
We re-engaged in this effort in 2015 within the original (1999) focal areas in the State of Illinois, acknowledging the Service’s ongoing commitment to conservation in the area and continued recognition of the biological importance of the Kankakee River Basin.
The Service has been supporting habitat restoration on private lands, encouraging conservation activities by partners, building relationships, and fostering support for conservation in the Kankakee River Basin since the early 1990s. The new name—Kankakee National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area—better reflects the partnership approach to this project. Through the conservation area approach, we will acquire land or easements from willing sellers as funds allow, as part of the broader, community and partner-based conservation effort in the basin to restore and conserve priority wetland, oak savanna, and grassland habitats.
One of our next steps is to develop a Land Protection Plan (LPP). An LPP is a report that is prepared by the Service to describe natural resource protection needs of an area to help prioritize conservation action within the area. An LPP will describe the priority areas for Service activities. We are currently working with local stakeholders to get their input. As the process unfolds the LPP will be available for public review. The goal is to enhance the quality of life and economic growth of current residents and future generations, while conserving rare natural lands.
Originally conceived as a bi-state refuge, the current refuge and conservation area is only being established in Illinois. We will continue to support voluntary conservation efforts by local partners in Indiana through technical assistance and cost-sharing of habitat restoration under our Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program. Any future effort in Indiana would focus on a partnership-driven “conservation area” concept, following the State’s lead. This concept incorporates future conservation land into existing land-use patterns to maintain a healthy balance of ecological, economic, and social needs.
A “Frequently Asked Questions” document has been developed to further explain the history, process of establishment, and future intentions of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in regards to the Kankakee National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area.
More information on the Kankakee National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area, beyond the FAQ, is available by emailing, calling, or writing the Midwest Region Division of Natural Resources and Conservation Planning at:
People with hearing impairments are invited to use the Federal Information Relay System: 1-800-877-8339
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Division of Natural Resources and Conservation Planning
Attention: Kankakee NWR and Conservation Area
5600 American Blvd. West, Suite 990
Bloomington, MN 55437-1458
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.