Planning History

Kankakee River

Kankakee River by Jeanne Holler, USFWS


We initiated a planning process for the Grand Kankakee Marsh National Wildlife Refuge in 1996.After detailed planning and public engagement, a final decision documentwas 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, therefuge 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 in the Kankakee River Basin since the Refuge was authorized.