Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge open house coverage

Tom Larson, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, discusses the proposed Hackmatack Wildlife Refuge with people at an open house meeting Wednesday evening at the Bristol Municipal Building.

A representative of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service said the concerns aired at an open house Wednesday in Bristol on the proposed Hackmantack refuge area were pretty typical.

The proposed refuge study area includes parts of Lake and McHenry counties in Illinois and Racine, Walworth and Western Kenosha County (in this case, west of Highway 83-south/Highway 75) in Wisconsin.

A detail from a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service poster showing the steps in establishing a refuge.

Gary Muehlenhardt, a biologist with Fish and Wildlife and the project manager for the Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge study, characterized the most common concerns as coming from:

  • Property owners — Fish and wildlife officials are able to tell them that the agency has no authority over land in private hands.
  • Snowmobilers and horse riders. Muehlenhardt said these services are sometimes restricted on refuge controlled land.

Why is this area being even considered? Bio-diversity, Muehlenhardt explained. The area was once glaciated and supports a large variety of habitats.

“What is attractive from a conservation standpoint is the biological diversity,” Muehlenhardt said. “It’s not common in the Midwest.”

Examples of those diverse habitats include oak forests that could come back and remnant prairies.

Often, entire midwest states are much less diverse, Muehlenhardt said.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced in April that it would conduct a study to determine if the establishment of a national wildlife refuge in several counties along the Wisconsin and Illinois border between Milwaukee and Chicago would be appropriate. The area authorized for consideration includes 10,000 to 30,000 acres.

Andy Ducato, a Salem resident, attended the open house in Bristol. An outdoorsman, he is concerned about the impact of shutting more local places off to hunting. Instead, he feels the land here would be expensive and difficult to bring back to an undeveloped state compared with land further north.

“There’s better property up north that’s cheaper,” Ducato said. “I would rather see them buy land up north.” (He expands upon his opposition here.)

Muehlenhardt addressed the idea that land here is not remarkable just because it is not a large obvious piece of wildlife habitat.

“Those big, huge conservation gems are protected, or they are gone,” Muehlenhardt said.

The refuge, if created, would seek to provide links between existing conservation areas so that wildlife could more easily move among them, Muehlenhardt said.

Other info

Here is a map of the study area. The Kenosha County portion of the proposed refuge lies basically west of Highway 83/75 and includes all or portions of Salem, Brighton, Wheatland, Randall, Paddock Lake and Twin Lakes.

Here is the preliminary project proposal.

Here is a list of frequently answered questions about the proposed refuge provided by the Fish and Wildlife Service that says in part:

  • Lands that are acquired are protected from development.
  • Lands are typically acquired only from willing sellers.
  • Use of privately owned land not in the refuge is not restricted (other than by local laws).


  1. valentine says:

    Thanks for this coverage WESDTOFTHI…..
    I am concerned about public access in these lands as I am on already DNR controlled lands…
    We have launches at the lakes that are less than inviting…
    Lands where thee ae publc accesses to water are ill kept, become dumps and are left to the misuse of people.
    Wetlands are simply areas where garbage colelcts.. If you dont understand me, WALK, dont drive, along side the roads wher ether are wetlands and get close to the property and See the garbage and the trash that has become embedded and is not part of HABITAT…

    And surprisingly, it appears that there has been a LOT of work done on this and has been kept hush hush from those in walworth kenosha mchenry and lake… And why is this… ? why are real, regular people iinvolved in ithis from the beginning, not after all the plans are made and the lipservice is taing place for public hearings…

    and about this public hearing thingy, why isnt is part of the consdervation congress day where each of the areas that are part this refuge can hear and talk about how it will impact their recreational outdoor life…

    i read the comment on the quick link.. Bong is being used more for high speed recreation. A local lake is being used for motorbikes on ice… and there is not DNR to be found, no ICE standards being developed and submitted for consideration in Chapter 33.. and we are all supposed to KNOW and understand that hackmatack will be better monitored and made a good and appropriate natural refuge… tell me, how can anyone feel that driving motorcycles all day long and into the night on ice is a good thing other than those who have no other tack to ride on? And why isnt the dnr regulating the misuse of thei lakes-turned-to-ice and the decibels that they KNOW travel across the lake ice to a mile away? Poeple should not assume that I am totally against this ‘sport’. But, it should not infring on my one use of a quiet lake, quiet enough to hear the crackling of ice stress when i walk on it and enjoy the shorelands as they have been for centuries… I know when something will get done on this problem.. it will bring attention when some unsuspecting snowmobiler runs into a manmade pile of snow, plowed into a pile for the benefit of motorcyclers…

    I am suspect of any activitiy that lies in wait until the last possible chance to put it to the people. I am suspect and i will tell any DNR person that to their face. The post in the KN some time ago was not received well. People in Kenosha County seemed to know about it.. interesting that in TOS, officers did not and neither did we hear about it all during the processing of smart growth…

    It was probably a good thing that i did NOT attend the event…

    I noticed tho that the only other opportunity is to write or drive to Milwaukee… oh, fun!

    If i took the KRM, how much would it cost for me to get a cab after I got off the train?

  2. valentine says:

    and, just what is the population of tamarack trees in the town of salem?

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