Growing America’s Great Outdoors:
Secretary Salazar Marks Establishment of Hackmatack NWR
By Tina Shaw
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced the establishment of Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge, January 11, at Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, in Florida. Hackmatack is the 561st national wildlife refuge in the National Wildlife Refuge System and is the 10th refuge established during Secretary Salazar’s tenure.
The refuge was officially established with the acquisition of a 12-acre habitat easement donation from Chicago-based Openlands, an organization dedicated to the protection of the natural and open spaces of northeastern Illinois and the surrounding region. As with the planning stages, Hackmatack Refuge will be a true partnership effort that involves many local, state and federal agencies, citizen-driven groups and other nongovernmental organizations.
"The establishment of the Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge will help keep open spaces, including wetlands and grasslands, within easy reach of millions of people living in largely urban areas of 'Chicagoland' and northeast Illinois," said Governor Quinn.
Restoration of wetlands, prairie and oak savanna will provide environmental education and conservation opportunities for the estimated 3.5 million people within 30 miles of the project area. The refuge will reconnect this urban population with nature and provide outdoor educational opportunities to thousands of children and their families.
"Thanks to the vision of conservation leaders and organizations throughout the greater Chicago metropolitan area, Hackmatack will provide a way to connect children, families and all urban and suburban residents to nature and wildlife," continued Quinn.
The refuge will benefit a variety of wildlife, plants and their habitats. The boundaries were formulated based on the soils, historic vegetation, watersheds, existing conservation areas, habitat requirements of desired wildlife species, public roads, and comments received from the public. It will link and expand existing conservation areas to benefit migratory birds, endangered species, and provide wildlife-dependent recreational opportunities.
Land conservation methods for four core areas, encompassing up to 11,200 acres in total, will include purchase from willing sellers, conservation easements, public-private initiatives and partnerships aimed at creating contiguous natural habitat. Conservation corridors that connect the core areas will be established primarily through use of partnership efforts and, to a lesser degree, through seller purchase.
Midwest Regional Director Tom Melius and members of Friends for Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge take part in the plank laying ceremony at Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo by Charlie Wooley)
Midwest Regional Director Tom Melius had words of praise for Openlands, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Friends of Hackmatack and the wider Hackmatack Planning Partnership, "This truly collaborative effort underscores our commitment to pulling in the best science together with the best community support."
"Taken together, these components create a project far greater than the sum of its parts," noted Melius.
Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge will also provide habitat for 109 species of concern that include Federal and state threatened and endangered species and birds of conservation concern. The list includes 49 birds, five fishes, five mussels, one amphibian, two reptiles and 47 plants.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved the establishment of the refuge on July 10, 2012, with the first parcel added on November 6, 2012.
To learn more about our newest refuge visit, http://www.fws.gov/refuge/hackmatack/