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Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge approved

Photos taken from Glacial Park and at one of the Hackmatack meetings
Photos taken from Glacial Park and at one of the Hackmatack meetings
Ted Nelson

After years of planning, gauging public opinion, and study, the grassroots effort of establishing a National Wildlife Refuge in northeast Illinois and southeastern Wisconsin has come to fruition with the authorization of Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge. U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced federal designation of Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge on Wednesday, August 15 at Glacial Park.

Glacial Park in McHenry County is inside the new boundary of the newly authorized national wildlife refuge
Ted Nelson

Related: Open letter regarding the proposed Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge

Friends of Hackmatack have advocated for over eight years for the refuge to be added to the 556 national wildlife refuges. This is the only national wildlife refuge in northern Illinois and the closest to Chicago.

There are currently seven national wildlife refuges in Illinois. All of them are either straddling the Illinois or the Mississippi River corridors. Chautauqua, Emiquon, and Meridosia are found along the Illinois River southwest of Peoria while Crab Orchard, Middle Mississippi River, Cypress Creek, and Two Rivers straddle the mighty Mississippi River.

The closest of these seven refuges to Chicago is Chautauqua, which is over three hours away and a two-hundred mile drive. Hackmatack is only seventy miles north.

Related: Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge along the Illinois River

Hackmatack becomes the tenth national wildlife refuge in Wisconsin. It joins the Fox River, Gravel Island. Green Bay, Horicon, Leopold Wetland, Necedah, St. Croix Wetland, Trempealeau, and Whittlesey Creek as number ten in Wisconsin.

If you read the comments against the national wildlife refuge on articles like this, they are usually against government interference. Whatever your feeling about government is, it is unfortunate that when it comes to conservation, it is necessary.

Without government land buying and protection, we have a habit of destroying everything in our path. Anyone who has lived in the region can see this if they look at the pattern of growth in the area over the past two decades.

What was once prairie and forest has turned to strip malls, Jewels, and Home Depots. Fortunately, Friends of Hackmatack stepped in and saved a huge swath of land from this burgeoning growth and saved the region from ourselves.

In a press release by the friends, Lenore Beyer-Clow, Woodstock, Illinois resident and Policy Director at Openlands stated: "A small group of people cared passionately enough about the natural spaces near where they live to pursue a dream of giving the area national recognition. Today, we are thrilled with the result: The authorization of the Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge."

The Chicago Adventure Travel Examiner is also thrilled to know a new national wildlife refuge is only seventy miles away promising protection for outdoor recreation.

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