Refuge Goals

Goals for Kankakee National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area were developed within the framework of the National Wildlife Refuge System's mission statement, the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, the primary purposes for the refuge, and other U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service policy and directives. The goals are broad statements that describe desired future conditions. They guide the management of the refuge and  conservation area conservation area
A conservation area or wildlife management area is a type of national wildlife refuge that consists primarily or entirely of conservation easements on private lands. These conservation easements support private landowner efforts to protect important habitat for fish and wildlife. There are 13 conservation areas and nine wildlife management areas in the National Wildlife Refuge System.

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 during its development stages before the development of a comprehensive conservation plan.     

The goals of the refuge and conservation area are to:  

  • Preserve, restore and enhance in their natural ecosystems (when practical) all species of animals and plants that are endangered or threatened with becoming endangered   
  • Perpetuate the migratory bird resource   
  • Preserve a natural diversity and abundance of fauna and flora on agency lands   
  • Provide an understanding and appreciation of fish and wildlife ecology and humankind's role in their environment and to provide visitors with high quality, safe, wholesome and enjoyable recreational experiences oriented toward wildlife to the extent these activities are compatible with the purposes for which each refuge was established 

Moving from planning to partnership

With public feedback received we have taken time to think about how we approach conservation with the communities within and near the refuge. We also recognize the draft document that we called a conservation vision was not a true collective conservation vision, as that is something we must jointly develop with all natural resource stewards in the area.

Collaborating as a community

As a next step, we are shifting to a community-focused, inclusive, intentional and collaborative conversations with thecommunities about how conservation fits into their vision for their future. In this endeavor, we are coming to the table as a potential partner with the desire to work on natural resource conservation and stewardship where and when it makes sense, based on community interests and needs. This will take time as our first step is to invest in staffing capacity to meet people where they are.

We will then begin community engagement to build trust, improve relationships and demonstrate our commitment to work with local communities and understand everyone’s needs and interests. Building this foundation will create the future of doing community-driven conservation. The end goal is to build trust and relationships between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and local communities so we can collaborate in long-term partnerships that conserve natural resources and meet community needs. In the long run, we want the refuge to benefit people and community interests, as well as the habitats that everyone calls home.

Meeting our commitments

The land protection plan for the Kankakee National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area is complete. This portion of the original draft conservation vision document is a representation of how our mission and policies guide the growth of the refuge and how we can be a partner in conservation. The priorities for natural resource conservation described in the document are guided by biology and where rare and important natural resources currently exist on the landscape. It outlines the actions we can take and tools we can use within the refuge boundary. We have the tools and the guidance for how we can be engaged in conservation partnerships, now we need your help to finalize what this looks like on the landscape and how it comes to life in the community.

Open or Download Final Land Protection Plan  (22,268 KB)

National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997 

The National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act defines a unifying mission for all refuges "to administer a national network of lands and waters for the conservation, management, and where appropriate, restoration of the fish, wildlife, and plant resources and their habitats within the United States for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans." It also developed a process for determining compatible uses on refuges and that each refuge be managed according to a comprehensive conservation plan that is developed through public involvement within 15 years of refuge establishment. The NWRS Improvement Act expressly states that wildlife conservation is the priority of System lands and that the Secretary of the Interior shall ensure that the biological integrity, diversity, and environmental health of refuge lands are maintained. Each refuge must be managed to fulfill the specific purposes for which the refuge was established and the System mission. The first priority of each refuge is to conserve, manage, and if needed, restore fish and wildlife populations and habitats according to its purpose.

Planning History

We initiated a planning process for the Grand Kankakee Marsh National Wildlife Refuge in 1996.After detailed planning and public engagement, a final decision document was signed on June 23, 2000, authorizing the refuge. Due to lack of funding and other planning priorities, we put the project on hold until a little more than a decade later. 

In 2012, in response to a specific request from the State of Illinois, we reengaged in this effort in the original state of Illinois focus areas, also known as planning units. The refuge was renamed the Kankakee National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area  as part of a process to modernize the original refuge concept. Natural resource conservation is collaborative, and we understand the need to integrate conservation lands into the existing fabric of our human communities, working lands and local economies. The new name was chosen to highlight this public-private partnership concept. 

At the same time that we began reengaging in this effort in Illinois, we also reinitiated discussions with partners and stakeholders within the Kankakee River Basin in Indiana. Through mutual agreement, the state has taken the lead on these conservation efforts. We continue to support conservation efforts by local landowners on their property through technical assistance and cost-sharing of habitat restoration under our Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program. 

Authorized since 2000, the refuge and conservation area  was formally established on May 25, 2016 when we accepted a 66-acre donation of land in Iroquois County, Illinois from the Friends of the Kankakee. The Friends of the Kankakee is an organization that has been dedicated to the development of a new  national wildlife refuge national wildlife refuge
A national wildlife refuge is typically a contiguous area of land and water managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service  for the conservation and, where appropriate, restoration of fish, wildlife and plant resources and their habitats for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.

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 in the Kankakee River Basin since the Refuge was authorized. 

To see the Decision Document (2000)