Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge

Located in McHenry County, Illinois, and Walworth County, Wisconsin — accessible to the 12 million residents of the metropolitan areas of Chicago, Madison, Milwaukee, and Rockford — Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge is the first federal wildlife refuge within 100 miles of Chicago.


Building a National Wildlife Refuge

Since 2005, Openlands has worked to protect the ecologically significant landscapes found along the Illinois-Wisconsin border, acquiring over 2,000 acres of land in Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge, and collaborating with partners and community residents to restore it. In 2024, the partnership of Openlands, The Conservation Fund, and the Illinois Audubon Society acquired Tamarack Farms. This marks the largest regional conservation acquisition in 28 years and creates the third-largest conservation landscape in the Chicago region. Openlands is a core member of the Hackmatack Conservation Partnership, which is dedicated to protecting natural and agricultural lands within the broader 30,000-acre greater Hackmatack refuge area.

Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge was established in 2012, and is part of the National Wildlife Refuge system and managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The refuge’s name, Hackmatack (hack-ma-tack), is an Algonquin word for the very old tamarack trees found in the refuge area that are living remnants of the last Ice Age. As land for Hackmatack is protected, the refuge will eventually encompass 11,200 acres of this glacial landscape. Over time, Hackmatack will become a mosaic of protected lands that provide habitat for grassland birds, recreation and education opportunities for people, and economic support for local communities.

“The land speaks to us in an elegant, primeval, and wordless language that reverberates within our very soul. Hackmatack is, and will come to be as the years pass, one of the concert halls in which we sit breathlessly to hear that symphony.”

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