Newsroom Midwest Region

Growing access at Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge

June 8, 2018

Wild geranium. Photo by Maggie O’Connell/USFWS.
Wild geranium. Photo by Maggie O’Connell/USFWS.

We at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service know that getting outside is beneficial for your health and well-being. It’s also fun! We want to get more Americans out birding, boating or just walking in the woods, whether it’s a trip of a lifetime to a remote national wildlife refuge or an urban escape close to home. Together with our partners, we’re are growing one of our newest national wildlife refuges here in the midwest.

On June 5, 2018, Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin and Illinois celebrated the addition 86 acres of public land. Regional Director Tom Melius joined leadership from Friends of Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge, Ducks Unlimited, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and other partners to mark the occasion at this new land acquisition near Genoa City, Wisconsin.

“We wouldn't be here today without the vision and passion of Friends of Hackmatack. It’s gratifying to know that people love national wildlife refuges so much that they made one happen,” said Regional Director Tom Melius.

Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge was officially established on November 6, 2012  with the donation of a 12-acre conservation easement. The easement was purchased for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service by Openlands through a donation from the Friends of Hackmatack and the McHenry County Conservation Foundation.

This young refuge connects the dots of conserved land in southeast Wisconsin and northeast Illinois. As the refuge continues to age, Hackmatack lands and conservation easements will link a web of lands together that are conserved by local, county, state and federal agencies, as well as private organizations. Working with our partners, the refuge will ultimately improve or restore more than 11,000 acres of drained wetland basins, historic prairie and forest habitats. We’ll continue to restore habitat by purchasing lands and easements from willing sellers and by helping landowners restore their own land.

“We are are pleased and excited that Ducks Unlimited conveyed this land to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Ducks Unlimited is one of 11 organizations that have pledged to work together to protect land within the footprint of the refuge and this new land with hopefully much more to follow, represents another step in fulfilling a long-held dream of the Friends to establish and build a bi-state refuge,” said Friends of Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge chair Steven Byers.

What’s next for Hackmatack? This mix of mature oak and restored prairie and wetlands will become a home for all sorts of migrating and resident birds and other wildlife. Wood ducks will come to nest in the oaks and native wildflowers will take root in the restored prairie which will be a welcome sight for butterflies and other other pollinators.

In the future, these acres will be open to hunting, hiking, birding and other non-motorized activities. Getting people outdoors has always been a big part of our mission and now the refuge is helping to make this even more of a reality.

Learn more about Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge.

Hackmatack leadership. Photo courtesy of Marty Hackl/Friends of Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge.
Hackmatack leadership. Photo courtesy of Marty Hackl/Friends of Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge.

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. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit

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