News & Events

News & Events
(With your help) Christmas is for the Birds!
You can help Friends of Hackmatack NWR in our campaign with Ducks Unlimited to transfer
their Wisconsin parcel to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, restored and ready to become part of Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge!

CLICK HERE for details on how you can help
with your $10/or more donation!
Tuesday, December 9, 2014,  7—8:30 pm
 Holiday Friends Gathering
 Lost Valley Visitor Center, Glacial Park on Harts Rd, west off of Rt. 31, north of
   Ringwood, IL  NOTE: if it is snowing, this event is cancelled.
 • Year in Review in photos
 • Introduction of new board members
 • Recap of our September input gathering session and solicitation of
    members for 2015 committees
 • Tom Simpson, MCCD Research Field Station Ecologist, will talk about his
    research on oak reproduction
 • Hackmatack Youth Conservation Crew leader Greg Rajsky will tell about
   the crew’s work this past summer
 • 2014 Special Recognition Awards
Saturday, December 13, 2014,  9 am to Noon        FLYER      MAP
 In Search of Eagles
Winter brings new sights to the Hackmatack region. Join us on Saturday December 13 as we celebrate the eagles who are making their home with us this winter.

At 9 am, join us In Search of Eagles - along the Fox River at McHenry Dam, Algonquin Dam & Carpentersville Dam. Representatives from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, McHenry County Conservation District, Friends of Hackmatack Wildlife Refuge, Illinois Department of Natural Resources and McHenry County
               Audubon will be on hand at each location to help in the search for eagles.
               Volunteers will have scopes and binoculars available for use.
               Visit the site closest to you, or visit all three!   MAP

After the outdoor excursions, enjoy some free hot chocolate at the Prairieview Education Center at 2112 Behan Rd, Crystal Lake and learn more about eagles in our area through crafts and activities.
Also on December 13th: REGISTER NOW for a special free, 1-hour presentation “Eagles of Illinois” with live raptors from the Illinois Raptor Center from 11 am - Noon at Prairieview Education Center! You will meet two kinds of eagles (Bald and Golden) so you can see the power and beauty of these truly magnificent birds of prey. You will also see other birds of prey that are commonly misidentified as eagles.  The program is free, but space is limited and registration is required.
To register, go online at or register by phone at 815-479-5779.   Presented by the Illinois Raptor Center and sponsored by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Fall 2014 Update  
September is upon us, and we are pleased to let you know of a number of upcoming Friends of Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge (FOHNWR)’s activities.

Tuesday, September 9 6-8 PM— Join FOHNWR for our Fall Friends Gathering. All attendees will help create a collage of ideas and opportunities for the Hackmatack refuge in the areas of land stewardship, environmental education and outreach. Join us for this fun exercise that will help guide future activities of the Friends group! This meeting will be held at the Lost Valley Visitor Center in Glacial Park (Take Harts Rd off of Rt. 31 just south of Richmond, IL and follow the signs to the visitor center.) Light refreshments will be served.
Sunday, October 12 7 AM-4 PM—The Big Sit
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, McHenry County Audubon, Illinois Department of Natural Resources and FOHNWR are participating in The Big Sit, an international birdwatching event. The concept is simplicity itself: find a good place for bird watching, sit in one spot and count all the bird species you see or hear. Join in the fun for as little or long as you like anytime on Sunday. We’ll be sitting near the Powers-Walker House at Glacial Park. Take Harts Rd off of Rt. 31 just south of Richmond, IL and follow the signs to the Powers-Walker House.
Birders—We need your expertise! Contact IDNR’s Stacy Iwanicki if you are willing to come help identify birds for an hour or two. We’d like 1-3 bird experts on site throughout the day. Stacy can be reached at or 815-344-1294.
Friends of Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge is looking for people interested in serving on the Friends’ Board of Directors.
If you are interested, please fill out this application form and email it to  Our Nominating Committee will contact you for an interview.
The next Friends of Hackmatack Gatherings are Tuesdays, September 9th and December 9th at 6:00 pm at Lost Valley Visitor Center at Glacial Park.
Friends Gathering on June 10, 2014
Friends of Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge will hold their second Friends Gathering on June 10th, 2014 at 6:00 pm in  the Lost Valley Visitor Center at Glacial Park, located on Hart Rd off Rt. 31 just south of Richmond, IL.   AGENDA

Future gatherings will be held at 6 pm on September 9 and December 9 at Lost Valley Visitor Center at Glacial Park.

The topic of the June 10th meeting will be Land Management and Restoration. As a newly formed Refuge, with little land to call its own, the Friends have an opportunity to learn about the Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and how it manages its refuge lands.

Mike Redmer of the USFWS will help us understand the goals of the Service concerning Wildlife and Habitat Management. Looking at the success of McHenry County Conservation District as a current land manager in the region, Ed Collins will lead us in a study of the District’s restoration projects and share the results of the numerous natural improvements to the land. We will meet Brian Glenzinski, of Ducks Unlimited who will talk about being a land owner within Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge and the site they are working to restore. 

RSVP by email to or on our Facebook page. If you have questions please call Diane at (708) 280-3890. 
Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge Celebrates International Migratory Bird Day with activities on April 26 & 27
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge will celebrate International Migratory Bird Day with bird banding and family activities at three northern Illinois locations on Saturday and Sunday, April 26 and 27, 2014.

On Saturday, April 26 and Sunday, April 27 from 8:00 am to 9:30 am, Service staff will set up mist nets to capture songbirds to band at the McHenry County Conservation District’s Lost Valley Visitor Center in Glacial Park, Ringwood.

In the afternoons, from noon until 3:30 pm, they will join the Illinois Department of Natural Resources International Migratory Bird Day festivities at McHenry Dam (Saturday) in McHenry and Volo Bog (Sunday) in Ingleside. During the morning activities at the Lost Valley Visitor Center, you can watch a wildlife biologist capture, band, and release birds that are passing through the area on their way north. Look for warblers, swallows, bluebirds, as well as winter residents like chickadees and nuthatches. Kids can explore a simulated mist net (the birds aren’t real) or discover the birds and creatures of the Mystery Marsh. Take a selfie with the National Wildlife Refuge System mascot, Webster, the Blue Goose.

On Saturday and Sunday afternoons, Service staff will join Illinois Department of Natural Resource’s International Migratory Bird Day festivities at McHenry Dam (Saturday) and Volo Bog (Sunday). Join us for the Bird Behavior Scavenger Hunt. Webster, the Blue Goose will join us there as well.  There will be a lot of other bird-based fun, including The Great Migration Challenge, Bird Bingo and JeopBirdy!

Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge was established in 2012 from the grassroots effort of the Friends of Hackmatack, McHenry County Conservation District, and a variety of conservation partners in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin.  The refuge aims to restore and connect a landscape that includes large blocks of grasslands, wet prairies, and natural stream watercourses.

Information and directions to Lost Valley Visitor Center, click HERE

Details about International Migratory Bird Day events at Volo Bog sponsored by the Illinois DNR HERE.

USFWS website for Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge HERE.

Information on the Midwest Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service HERE.

International Migratory Bird Day website HERE.

pdf of this USFWS release
Spring 2014 Update   
birdA lot has happened since Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge was established in November 2012.  Here is some information on how our new national wildlife refuge is growing in outreach to its neighbors this Spring!

For the land This summer, a Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) crew will be conducting land restoration activities on refuge and other conservation lands. Local teens will be selected by a lottery to fill the four slots on the crew. Teens must be 15-18 years old and live in McHenry County, Illinois or Walworth County, Wisconsin.

For more information, see the YCC Member job description about this full-time work from June 9 to August 8. You must apply by May 2.

For the people The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service will host its first Hackmatack NWR event by celebrating International Migratory Bird Day. Rangers will be banding birds at Lost Valley Visitor Center from 8 – 9:30 am on both Saturday, April 26 and Sunday, April 27. Drop by any time either morning to see what birds they find!

Friends Gatherings  Quarterly Friends Gatherings began with forty-five eager volunteers attended the first gathering on March 11, 2014. We celebrated the 111th birthday of the national wildlife refuge system, updated attendees on refuge lands in Illinois and Wisconsin, and explored the ways people can be involved in refuge activities.

Future gatherings will be held at 6 pm on June 10, September 9 and December 9 at Lost Valley Visitor Center at Glacial Park, on Rt. 31 just south of Richmond, Illinois.

The June 10, 2014 Friends Gathering will focus on land restoration, and a restoration workday will be scheduled as a follow-up, hands-on event. RSVP by email to or on our Facebook page.

These are exciting times as we explore the opportunities before us as we work with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service on our refuge!
Friends of Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge Quarterly Gatherings beginning!
March 11, 2014 ~ 6:00 pm Glacial Park, Lost Valley Visitor Center, Ringwood, IL

Join the birthday celebration of National Wildlife Refuge System!
By Executive Order on March 14, 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt established
Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, along Florida's central Atlantic coast,
as the first unit of the present National Wildlife Refuge System. 
October 18, 2012
Friends of Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge Partnership Receives
 Department of Interior Partners In Conservation Award
Conservation Award
The Friends of Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge Partnership was one of 17 partnerships honored by Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar as part of the Department of Interior’s 2012 Partners in Conservation Awards at an awards ceremony in Washington, D.C on October 18, 2012.

The Partners in Conservation Awards were established by Secretary Ken Salazar in 2009. They recognizes partnerships that promote conservation of America’s treasured landscapes, preserve natural and cultural resources, bring innovative approaches to resource management, and that engage diverse entities and youth in accomplishing the Department’s mission.

The Midwest Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service nominated the 26-member team that made up the Friends of Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge Partnership. The nomination aimed at recognizing the group’s outstanding grassroots conservation initiative, which blended citizens together with a diverse mix of nonprofit and governmental organizations at the local, state and federal level. This group focused on one goal, to create a national wildlife refuge that complements existing conservation lands and provides significant grassland and wetland wildlife habitat – this is Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge.

The partnership effectively incorporated sound biological science with the need to reconnect people and nature, as well as the needs of declining grassland birds, and created a long-term vision for people and nature to coexist in a rapidly urbanizing area.
Conservation Award  Friends of Hackmatack react when Michael Gale, DOI Office of Youth, Partnerships and Service finishes the announcement of their award with the cry "Go Hackmatack!"

Photos from US Department of the Interior
USFWS Midwest Region Press Release
Department of Interior Press Release
2012 Partners in Conservation Awards Ceremony program
Hackmatack was featured on Chicago Tonight - Watch the clip:

Watch September 11, 2012 - National Wildlife Refuge Born in Illinois on PBS.  See more from Chicago Tonight.

August 15, 2012     Hackmatack Refuge Approved
Secretary of Interior SalazarSecretary of the Interior Ken Salazar  visited Illinois on August 15th to announce that he has authorized the establishment of Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge. He was joined by Senator Dick Durbin, who has been instrumental in assisting with the process. Also present at the event at Lost Valley Visitors Center at Glacial Park in Ringwood were many stakeholders from Illinois and southern Wisconsin who have been working to make Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge a reality. The new refuge is part of the America's Great Outdoors Initiatives to enhance conservation efforts, foster outdoor recreation opportunities, create jobs, and fuel local economies.
Photo by Tina Shaw, USFW
Department of Interior Press Release           U.S. Fish & Wildlife Hackmatack Page

Friends of Hackmatack Press Release          USFW Photos of the Announcement on Flickr

Northwest Herald article                           USFW Photos of the Event on Flickr

Map of Proposed Hackmatack NWR Preferred Alternative
March 2012
We are so excited the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has completed their two-year study and have recommended that a new wildlife refuge be established on the Illinois-Wisconsin border! The Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge will be the closest refuge to the Chicago, Rockford,  and Milwaukee and metro areas, fitting nicely with the USFWS’s policy to establish refuges easily accessible to people living in urban areas.

The Fish & Wildlife Service is recommending refuge lands which would link with and expand on existing lands already protected by the McHenry County Conservation District (Illinois) and Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources in order to provide large blocks of habitat for prairie species like Dickcissel, Henslow's sparrow and short-eared owl, the savanna-loving red-headed woodpecker, and wetland-dependent species like pied-billed grebe and the federally endangered Whooping crane.

We are in full agreement with the USFWS, the landscape of the Hackmatack area IS a national treasure worth preserving for future generations! The proposed refuge will bring tourism, jobs and new economic opportunity to our region as well as providing new educational and recreational opportunities to the citizens of both states.

The USFWS is soliciting public input on the proposed refuge until April 27, 2012
Proposed Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge Executive Summary Environmental Assessment, Land Protection Plan, and Conceptual Management Plan    March 2012
June 2011
Article on Hackmatack in June Issue of OutdoorIllinois  pdf
IDNR Podcast about Proposed Hackmatack Wildlife Refuge   Link to IDNR podcast list
Spring 2011
The birds are headed north, Flowers are starting to bloom, Celebrate spring by flocking out on your own to one of these upcoming Friends of Hackmatack events!
  Public presentation at 7 pm on Thursday, April 14 at the Johnsburg Public Library, hosted by Johnsburg Garden Club   Library Website
  Public presentation at 7 pm on Wednesday, April 27 at the McHenry Public Library
    Library Website
  Booth at McHenry County Earth Day Celebration at Prairie View Education Center, Crystal Lake on Saturday, April 30, 11 am-4 pm   MCCD Website
  Public presentation at Volo Bog’s International Migratory Birds Days Celebration at 1:30 pm on Sunday, May 1   Friends of Volo Bog Website
Winter 2011Eagles Starved Rock

The land in the Hackmatack study area may be resting under a blanket of snow, but Friends of Hackmatack members aren’t!  We continue to get the word out about the proposed refuge to as many people and organizations as we can.

We had a great time at Bald Eagle Watch at Starved Rock State Park in January!

Table Display
We’ll also be at these upcoming events:
• Exhibit at Wild Things Conference at University of Illinois at Chicago on Saturday, March 5 • Public presentation at 7pm on Wednesday, April 27 at the McHenry Public Library.
• Booth at McHenry County Earth Day Celebration at Prairie View Education Center,
  Crystal Lake on Saturday, April 30
• Public presentation at Volo Bog’s International Migratory Bird Day Celebration at 1:30 pm
  on Sunday, May 1
What’s next for the proposed refuge?  US Fish & Wildlife Service is also busy studying the natural resources in the Hackmatack study area.  Check out their webpage for the latest news on their planning team. They anticipate releasing a number of alternative scenarios for the refuge along with their recommended alternative.
Friends of Hackmatack will get the word out once the USFWS releases its alternatives study (called an Environmental Assessment).  There will be a formal public comment period.
Fall 2010
Many thanks to all of you who attended the recent Hackmatack Open Houses in Illinois and Wisconsin!  The USFWS team who hosted these events commented that most attendees were enthusiastic about the idea of a refuge, and were better informed than at any similar event they’ve had in the past.  This is a tribute to YOU. We still need your help.  USFWS has asked for even more feedback from the public, to help guide their efforts as they review the opportunities in this region.

Please, tell them (again) that you’re excited about Hackmatack; but also tell them what you’re thinking about:
  the critical resource issues in the area;
  the wildlife species you think they should be targeting;
  any “special places” you know about, that you’d love to see protected as part of
    a refuge;
  the kinds of recreation opportunities you do (or don’t) want to see in the refuge;
  specific ways that a refuge could integrate itself into local communities;
. . . or, any other thoughts you might have.  They take these comments seriously!
You can send your thoughts directly to the USFWS planning team at

If you are a Hackmatack supporter but don’t have specific comments to add, the Sierra Club has made it easy for you to pass this message along to USFWS;
Comments will be accepted through next Sunday, November 1st.
April 27, 2010    News from USFWS

USFWS press release:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Will Study Potential National Wildlife Refuge Along Wisconsin and Illinois Border

USFWS has established a Website HERE to provide citizens with information on the proposed refuge and the process of studying the refuge.
April 8, 2010    USFWS Approves Hackmatack Study
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced their decision to proceed with a study to determine the feasibility of establishing a Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge in the bi-state region of southeastern Wisconsin and northeastern Illinois.  Long known as an ecological hotspot, the  region is home to many rare bird, fish, freshwater mussel and plant species, as well as some of the world’s most globally imperiled natural communities, including tall grass prairie and oak savanna.  

The study, which could take up to two years, will involve an extensive review of the available biological data for the area as well as public meetings with local citizens, business interests and outdoor recreational user groups such as hunters, fisherman, photographers, boaters and hikers who are familiar with the region.  

Studies of this type typically involve large geographic areas that include the region's ecological systems, wildlife resources, cultural and economic context. If the results of the study highlight resources that are significant from a national perspective, the USFWS will identify areas where such resources are concentrated as potential sites for a national wildlife refuge.  

Unlike older refuge designs which often included vast tracts of open land in very rural parts of the United States, shifting population centers have produce a groundswell of interest in “urban” style refuges where people can engage in wildlife-related recreation and conservation education. These refuges involve partnerships linking existing public open space to refuge lands obtained through voluntary private lands conservation easements and strategic purchases from willing sellers to create a network of landscape conservation cooperatives.
March 18, 2010
Chicago Wilderness endorses proposed Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge
March 14, 2010
The Journal Times article: Wild Oasis: Group hopes to establish wildlife refuge near Illinois border
March 3, 2010
Northwest Herald article:  County land could be used for wildlife refuge
March 3, 2010
The Trust for Public Lands and Openlands, with the aid of grant monies, has facilitated a viability study for the proposed Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge through Fermata, Inc. The study is now available as a pdf file HERE, and on the TPL site HERE.
March 2, 2010
Friends of Hackmatack gave an informational presentation on the proposal Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge to the McHenry County Board at their regular meeting on March 2, 2010. Initial response from the Board was favorable, and we hope they will support the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service conducting a feasibility study for the refuge.
February 27, 2010
Friends of Hackmatack gave an informational presentation to the Wildflower Preservation and Propagation Committee (WPPC) at their annual Natural Landscaping Seminar, held February 27, 2010 at McHenry County College. The WPPC's support of the project was overwhelming! We thank them for their generous donation of $2,500 to Friends of Hackmatack, as well as the multiple pledges of support and donations from individual WPPC members and seminar attendees. The contributions will be used to continue the promotion of a national wildlife refuge in the bi-state area.
February 22, 2010
Senator Dick Durbin (IL) has written a letter to the Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service supporting the Service conducting a feasibility study for the proposed Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge. Other legislators who signed the letter include Senator Roland Burris (IL), Senator Russ Feingold (WI), Senator Herb Kohl (WI), Representative Melissa Bean (IL), Representative Daniel Lipinski (IL), Representative Donald Manzullo (IL), and Representative Mike Quigley (IL). View the letter of support HERE.
Feb. 22, 2010     Hackmatack NWR Update
The proposed Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge has recently been featured on
the website, a blog highlighting news and events about national
wildlife refuges across America. View the article HERE.
February 18, 2010
The McHenry County Conservation District's Board of Trustees approved a Resolution of Support for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service conducting a feasibility study for the Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge proposal. We appreciate their support.
Feb. 3, 2010     Hackmatack NWR Update
In late 2009, both Illinois Governor Quinn and Wisconsin Governor Doyle sent letters to USFWS Director Sam Hamilton requesting the service conduct a study to assess the feasibility of establishing a National Wildlife Refuge in the bi-state area of Southeastern Wisconsin and Northeastern Illinois in order to protect remnant biologically significant communities in this rapidly developing area.  In mid-December USFWS regional staff spent two days visiting the area and gathering information. (Illinois and Wisconsin are in USFWS Region 3 which has its headquarters in St. Paul, MN.) Region 3 staff prepared a Preliminary Project Proposal for the proposed refuge which they submitted to USFWS headquarters in Washington DC at the end of January.  If this preliminary review of the project is positive, Director Hamilton will direct USFWS staff to launch a more intensive study.