Path to Preservation

“This project had humble beginnings in a group of conservation-minded citizens sitting around a kitchen table. When it comes down to it, Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge is really about people. It is about a place for people to connect to nature…

The vision for Hackmatack began with a conversation around a kitchen table in 2004 and led to the formation of the Friends of Hackmatack. This citizen action group focused on educating the public on the ecological importance of the area through presentations to garden clubs, city councils, and other organizations. Today, this group is the Friends of Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge and operates as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization focused on refuge outreach and educational programming. Along with other partners such as the Trust for Public Land, Openlands was a key player in advocating for state, county, and community government support of the refuge.

February 2010 Openlands and The Trust for Public Land released an ecological viability study demonstrating the value of the proposed refuge area in relation to 109 plant and animal species of concern.

March 2012 The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released an environmental assessment of the proposed refuge area that garnered significant public support.

“People, like my children who grew up here, and at Glacial Park have searched for mussels in the Nippersink Creek and pulled garlic mustard to restore the landscape.

July 2012 The Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service authorized the formal establishment of Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge. During the August 15, 2012 dedication ceremony at Glacial Park in Ringwood, Illinois, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar spoke on the importance of the extensive grassroots efforts that had led to the refuge’s establishment.

October 2012 Openlands purchased the Peterson Tract, a 72-acre wetland and prairie restoration opportunity within the Queen Anne Prairie Core Area of Hackmatack’s Illinois portion. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources took possession of the property, and the Friends of Hackmatack and the McHenry County Conservation Foundation raised funds for the project.

November 2012 A 12-acre conservation easement on the Peterson Tract was transferred to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This transfer officially created Hackmatack on the ground by providing an ownership interest to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“People, like high school kids from Humboldt Park, who were competing to see how many prairie seeds they could collect.

April 2013 Ducks Unlimited purchased the Turner Tract, an 86-acre parcel within Hackmatack’s Goose Pond Corridor in Wisconsin, and made plans to restore the land to a mix of wetlands, grassland, and savanna.

June 2013 The first Hackmatack volunteer stewardship workday was held on the Turner Tract.

2014 An additional 124 acres were protected for Hackmatack by purchasing 11 acres from a willing seller and placing conservation easements on two privately owned properties. These projects are located within Hackmatack’s Greenwood Corridor and in the vicinity of the Alden Sedge Meadow Core Area. The Land Conservancy of McHenry County, McHenry County Conservation District, and Openlands were involved.

“People, like the 600 residents who came out to open houses to learn and support the refuge.

2015 The Land Conservancy of McHenry County protected 26 acres of privately owned property in the Alden Sedge Meadow Core Area.

2016 A total of 344 acres were protected in Hackmatack’s Queen Anne Prairie Core Area, Tamarack Core Area, Greenwood Corridor, and State Line Corridor, through purchase from willing sellers and conservation easements on privately owned property. The Land Conservancy of McHenry County and McHenry County Conservation District were involved in these projects, and Openlands purchased the 27-acre Perricone Tract and the 11-acre Blackmon Tract.

2017 156 acres were purchased by McHenry County Conservation District in the vicinity of the Alden Sedge Meadow Core Area, bringing the refuge’s total protected acreage to about 900 as of April 2017.

Land protection work continues as new opportunities arise, thanks to the dedication of donors, partners, and supporters working to build the vision of Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge on the ground.

“People, like you and I, who are thrilled and excited to get national recognition for a place we love and cherish.”

– Lenore Beyer, former Openlands Vice President of Policy and Planning and one of the original advocates for protecting Hackmatack

For more information on Hackmatack, please contact or call 312.863.6257.