About Friends of Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge

Nothing happens unless first a dream. ~ Carl Sandburg

Friends of Hackmatack NWR is a non-profit organization. We are a group of local citizens from northeastern Illinois and southeastern Wisconsin who achieved our dream to bring a National Wildlife Refuge to the Chicago Metro area to add to the handful of urban refuges nationwide, building on the commitment of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to develop an informed and involved citizenry that will support fish and wildlife conservation through recreation, scientific research, and environmental education in and near cities.

Our Mission

The mission of Friends of Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge is to conserve and enhance the natural and cultural resources, rural character and scenic beauty of the Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge and to connect people to these resources.

Our Goals

  • Support the urban, bi-state Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge in collaboration with the United States Fish & Wildlife Service.
  • Engage landowners and the community in general in the conservation and restoration of the region’s resources.
  • Protect and restore open space and environmentally sensitive areas.
  • Safeguard the water quality of Nippersink Creek and its watershed, the key environmental corridor which connects the units of Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge.
  • Provide educational opportunities for the public and volunteers to learn about and support the Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge.
  • Develop and strengthen partnerships.
  • Provide volunteer and financial support for the refuge.
  • Respond to potential threats to the ecological integrity of the Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge.

The Refuge Community

  • Respects individual property rights by offering multiple mechanisms for land owners who choose to become part of the refuge system through conservation easements, management agreements and voluntary habitat improvement of privately owned lands.
  • Encourages and expands outdoor recreational opportunities while enhancing the appreciation of the natural landscape
  • Engages with local gateway communities to encourage commerce and build on their distinctive assets.
  • Creates new opportunities for businesses and builds on the economic strengths of our region.
  • Highlights the historic and cultural contributions of native peoples, farmers and today’s residents.
  • Incorporates partnerships between private land owners, local business interests, conservation groups, state and local units of government and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service in a mutually beneficial relationship.

Friends Of Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge Adopts Land Acknowledgement Statement

Land Acknowledgement Statements are used to recognize in a formal manner the fact that the lands and waters where we live, work, and play are the ancestral home of those who came before us. These places, where Indigenous people hunted, farmed, lived upon and honored the landscape upon which they made their homes, support wildlife, native plants, fungi, and countless other organisms and the environmental systems that support them. We share these spaces with those who came before—and those who remain—and we wish to express our deep respect for that ancient connection.

Many universities, as well as land-protection agencies and other conservation-minded organizations, have posted such Land Acknowledgement Statements, and often recite them at celebratory occasions on the land. Friends of Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge has adopted such a statement. You may read it, below, and find it on our website. We make this statement out of deep and abiding respect—for past, present, and future inhabitants and participants in these sacred spaces.

Land Acknowledgement Statement

As an independent grassroots support organization, Friends of Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge recognizes that refuge-area lands and waters are the ancestral home to many groups of Indigenous people who have dwelt here for millennia. We recognize that the Hackmatack name itself derives from the Algonquian people’s word for the tamarack tree. As we engage in ecological restoration of these protected lands, we acknowledge that we, in a respectful manner, seek to replicate many of the land management practices developed and applied by these Indigenous peoples.

We acknowledge that Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge is situated on or near traditional lands of the following sovereign groups who, along with others, lived in deep connection with these lands from time to time across the past several thousand years, and who remain spiritually connected to this land:

• The Council of Three Fires, which includes the Bodéwadmiakiwen (Potawatomi) , Anishinabewaki (Ojibwe or Chippewa), and Odawa (Ottawa) Nations.
Kiikaapoi (Kickapoo)
Očhéthi Šakówiŋ (Sioux)
• The Illinois Confederacy, made up of several clans, including the Peoria
Sauk and Meskwaki (Fox)
• Waazija (Ho-Chunk /Winnebago)

The Friends of Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge welcome opportunities to form partnerships that may enable Indigenous communities to maintain a connection with their ancestral homelands. This land acknowledgement statement is a living document that may be revised to incorporate further input from Indigenous voices.

More information about Native people and their lands can found here: http://native-land.ca

Friends Of Hackmatack National Wildlife  Board of Directors

The Board meets on the second Tuesday of the month at 6:30 PM. Currently, meetings are being held remotely. See News & Activities for details of our activities.


Steve Byers, Chair (IL)

Ed Collins, Vice Chair (IL)

Nancy Williamson, Treasurer (IL)

Rory Klick, Secretary (WI)

Board Members:

Paul Bruett (WI)
Aimee Collins (IL)
Ed Collins (IL)
Fernando Hernandez (WI)
Pete Jackson (IL)
Vince Mosca (WI)
Linda Oeffling (IL)
Susan Sander (WI)
Jake Schmidt (WI)
Cindy Skrukrud (IL)

Hackmatack & Kankakee National Wildlife Refuge Refuge Manager:
Cassandra (Cassie) Skaggs
Office: Lost Valley Visitor Center, Glacial Park
6316 Harts Rd
Ringwood, IL 60072
(815) 678-4532 x8106  
Email: hackmatack@fws.gov

Contact Us:
If you are interested in participating in our committees and work in any capacity, please email us at friendsofhackmatacknwr@gmail.com.  Include your contact information and be sure to briefly mention your area of interest.

Friends of Hackmatack NWR Timeline

Approval, Establishment & Development


About the Photos on this Website

Many of the beautiful scenic photos on this website, including the header for this page and on the home page, are the work of photographer Ray Mathis. Most have been taken at Glacial Park in McHenry County, Illinois. We thank him for his generous contribution through the use of these photos. See more of Ray’s work at ray-mathis.pixels.com.  Other photos have been provided by Friends of Hackmatack members, and by the generous employees of the USFWS who provide photos free to use under Public Domain licensing.

Friends of Hackmatack NWR

P.O. Box 413
Richmond, IL 60071



Call 262-448-3558 to listen for the latest updates on upcoming activities. If you need to reach us, please leave a message and we will return your call.

Sign up for our amazing mailing list!

* indicates required

Skip to content