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The Proposed Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge by Sandy Kaczmarski

Te US Fish and Wildlife Service has recently initiated a study to evaluate the possibility of establishing a Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge, which would protect valuable natural resources in the northern Fox watershed, as well as southern Wisconsin. Te review process is expected to be completed in 2011. Te proposal was initiated by the Friends of Hackmatack, a group of local citizens who are working with the USFWS and other resource agencies to identify critical biological assets and to build community support for the refuge.

Te National Wildlife Refuge System is a national network of public lands set aside specifically to protect wild animals and plants. Found in all 50 states and five U.S. territories and encompassing 95 million acres, 560 refuges currently exist. National Wildlife Refuges are special places with significant natural resources where the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service acquires land and/or conservation easements.

Wildlife Refuges in the United States are visited 34 million times a year, by birdwatchers, photographers, educators and researchers, hunters, fishermen, and hikers. Tese visitors are an important source of revenue for the local economy. Refuges also enhance the quality of life for local residents, both preserving the region’s aesthetic beauty and affording numerous recreational and educational opportunities.

Te Regional Benefits of Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge:

• Link existing protected natural areas to form a large preserve of natural lands in Southeastern Wisconsin and Northeastern Illinois. • Establish a mega-preserve encompassing thousands of acres of wetland habitat in the flyway of the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership. In recent years, other migratory waterfowl and shorebirds have flocked to nearby wetlands restored on McHenry County Conservation District lands, in northeast Illinois and along the flyway in southeast Wisconsin.

• Further protect the watershed of Nippersink Creek, a beautiful stream in both Illinois and Wisconsin that is home to rare fish, mussels and the river otter. • Expand recreational opportunities in an area known for its canoeing and biking with trail connections north into Wisconsin and the White River Trail, south through the Fox River Valley and the Grand Illinois Trail and west towards Rockford and Beloit.

• Provide birding opportunities for the large Metro Chicago area birdwatching market, recently estimated to generate $356 million per year in economic activity.

• Provide the Gateway Communities of Richmond, Genoa City, Pell Lake and Lake Geneva, with their rich history, antique stores and unique shops, the opportunity for further development as a hub for nature tourism and the cultural history of the region.

Friends of Hackmatack has a website where you can learn more about the process to create this national wildlife refuge in our own watershed, as well as sign an online petition in support.

Visit the website - 35 -

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