Fish and Wildlife Service Seeks Comments on Refuge Proposal
Late last month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) released a study of the proposed Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge. This official Environmental Assessment examined an area straddling the Illinois - Wisconsin border and identified four alternatives for USFWS, ranging from establishing a large conservation area of almost 30,000 acres through easements and acquisition to not establishing a refuge at all (the no-action alternative). The USFWS preferred alternative is smaller (about 11,000 acres) and is designed to augment existing conservation areas, making larger "core" areas that would then be joined via habitat corridors. In this regard, USFWS is following an approach widely accepted in conservation planning. The idea of protecting blocks of habitat joined by corridors is the conceptual basis of GO TO 2040's green infrastructure recommendations as well.
GO TO 2040 calls for increased conservation investment by the federal government, including transfers of surplus property for open space use, establishment of wildlife refuges, and other actions that would help the region achieve its goal of protecting another 150,000 acres of conservation land. The USFWS preferred alternative also emphasizes land protection through partnerships and through a mixture of acquisition and easements, which is well in line with the collaborative, multi-party approach to conservation envisioned in GO TO 2040.
USFWS is accepting comments on the Environmental Assessment until April 27. Instructions for submitting comments can be found on the study website.