BLOOMFIELD — The Hackmatack Wildlife Refuge has developed a volunteer network in Northern Illinois, and it is now looking to expand its reach in southeastern Wisconsin.
The Hackmatack Wildlife refuge was established in 2012 to provide natural habitat for wildlife and migratory birds. The refuge stretches across Northern Illinois and Southeastern Wisconsin, including portions of Genoa City and Bloomfield.
“We are one of the most recently established refuges,” refuge manager Todd Boonstra said. “This is an unique refuge because it was the local communities that strongly supported the idea of a refuge rather than a national push.”
The Geneva Lake Conservancy has worked with the refuge since its 2012 establishment.
“We are presently working with several large land owners, who we hope will protect their property for wildlife habitat,” Geneva Lakes Conservancy director Karen Yancey said. “We hope to talk about those projects as they are completed either this year or next year.”
The refuge found success working with Richmond-Burton High School in Illinois in an effort to restore a six-acre field.
Wisconsin schools visit the refuge frequently, but Boonstra thinks that now is the time to get those students more involved in the restoration effort.
“I would like to expand that because we are a bi-state refuge,” Boonstra said. “The next step is to approach Wisconsin schools to get them engaged and visit the refuge, and I think there is an opportunity to do that.”
Yancey said that the conservancy plans on working with the refuge to involve the schools in any opportunity.
“We would really like to have the resources to do more with Badger and schools in Bloomfield and Genoa City to make the kids aware of Hackmatack,” Yancey said. “Right now we have one preserve that is open to the public in Wisconsin, so our role is to expand the amount of protected lands.”
Boonstra would like to expand his reach in the Lake Geneva community because he thinks many people don’t realize the refuge is in their backyard.
A citizen group called Friends of Hackmatack has provided financial and volunteer support to the refuge.
“We talked to a lot of them about the value the refuge could bring to the citizens of the region, the people who have an interest for the love of the land but with also providing sense of place and identity with one that could be lost if we aren’t careful with land decisions in the future,” Friends of Hackmatack member Steve Byers said.
Byers says that it could take a multi-generational effort to build the refuge. There are more than 1,000 acres of land that are in need of protection, and it take will take a lot of work from community partners to build the refuge.
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