Newsroom Midwest Region

May 25, 2016

Garrett Peterson, 612-713-5311,

Kankakee National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area established in Illinois

Black oak savanna habitat. Photo by USFWS.
Black oak savanna habitat. Photo by USFWS.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Midwest Regional Director Tom Melius announced the establishment of Kankakee National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area in Iroquois County, Illinois, today.

“The Kankakee River Basin represents a unique Midwestern landscape,” notes Regional Director Tom Melius. “I’m very pleased to continue working with the local community and partners to conserve these priority wetlands, remnant oak savanna, and grasslands, as well as enhance outdoor recreational opportunities.”

The refuge and conservation area was officially established 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. This parcel will be open in the near future for public hunting of deer and turkey following state regulations, as well as wildlife observation and photography.

Establishing the refuge and conservation area formally recognizes decades of work with conservation partners. 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.

The acquisition of this 66-acre tract in Iroquois County was funded, in part, by the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, whose mission is to improve energy efficiency, advance the development and use of renewable energy resources, and protect natural areas and wildlife habitat in communities across Illinois.

“The Foundation is honored to have helped with the initial acquisition of this land,” said Executive Director of the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation Dennis O’Brien. “The volunteers of Friends of the Kankakee have proved to be diligent caretakers of the habitat. The Foundation has helped to expand other federally-owned natural areas in Illinois and is pleased to have a played a small role in the creation of the newest national wildlife refuge,” continued O’Brien.

As part of our commitment to working closely with the community in this area, we have joined together with nine other organizations, as well as local residents, to begin creating a sustainability plan in the Hopkins Park/Pembroke Township area in Kankakee County. This plan allows local residents and organizations to collaborate and shape the future of conservation.

“Originally conceived as a bi-state refuge, the refuge and conservation area is only being established in Illinois,” continued Melius.

We will continue to support voluntary conservation efforts by local partners in Indiana through technical assistance and cost-sharing of habitat restoration through our Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program.

The Kankakee River Basin has the biological foundation necessary for a highly significant contribution to the conservation of fish and wildlife resources of continental importance. National wildlife refuges do more than sustain and enhance natural resources, they can add to the economic vitality and quality of life for communities.

Learn more about our newest refuge by visiting,