The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wants to know what the public thinks about a proposed national wildlife refuge that would include northeastern McHenry County.
The agency is studying the possibility of linking at least 11,000 acres in Illinois and Wisconsin into the Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge. About two dozen agencies and politicians from the McHenry County Board to Congress have sent the service letters supporting the refuge’s creation.
McHenry County-area residents can chime in on the proposal at two open house events scheduled for this week.
The first open house will be from 4 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the McHenry County Government Center Administration Building, 667 Ware Road, Woodstock.
A second open house will be from 4 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at the Lost Valley Visitor Center in Glacial Park. The park is on Harts Road, west of the intersection with Route 31 in Ringwood.
The public also can submit comments on the refuge proposal by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail, by sending a letter to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Division of Conservation Planning; Attn: Proposed Hackmatack NWR; BHW Federal Building, Room 530; 1 Federal Drive; Fort Snelling, MN 55111.
At the open houses, residents will be able to talk with Fish and Wildlife Service planners about threats to conservation, resources that they believe need to be conserved, the best means to conserve resources in the area, and any specific issues that should be addressed as the agency plans for the refuge.
If approved, the refuge could link existing conservation sites in McHenry and Lake counties in Illinois, and Walworth, Kenosha and Racine counties in Wisconsin, according to a viability study conducted by the nonprofit group Friends of Hackmatack. The study examined land within a half-hour drive from Richmond, although the refuge’s boundaries would be up to the wildlife service.
A recommendation by the Fish and Wildlife Service to create the refuge would require an act of Congress to make it a reality. Both U.S. senators from Illinois and Wisconsin, numerous local House representatives, as well as both state governors, have written letters supporting Hackmatack.
McHenry County Conservation District properties that could end up as part of Hackmatack include Glacial Park, Goose Lake, North Branch Preserve, Alden Sedge Meadow, Elizabeth Lake and Bailey Woods.
The closest national wildlife refuges to the Chicago and Milwaukee metropolitan areas are about 150 miles away. There are about 560 such refuges, present in all 50 states and five U.S. territories, preserving a total area about the size of Montana.