Hamill Family Foundation Gives Lead Gift to the Hackmatack Opportunity Fund

December 18, 2014

Visionary in their support of conservation in the Chicago region, the Hamill Family Foundation recently made a substantial gift to Openlands to establish the Corwith Hamill Legacy Fund. This fund will provide essential capital dollars to protect and restore critical natural lands within the Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge and the surrounding area, and honors the legacy of Corwith Hamill – known by Corky to all – who was a ground-breaking leader in protecting our region’s natural resources and a long-time board member of Openlands.  “Our father was deeply connected to the natural landscape of the prairie forest border eco-region and would have been thrilled by the federal government’s recognition of the area,” said Nancy Hamill Winter, on behalf of her family.

Hackmatack is special because as a new urban wildlife refuge, it is within easy reach of millions of outdoor enthusiasts from Milwaukee, Madison, Chicago, and Rockford.  With public and private cooperation and a lot of hard work, Hackmatack will ultimately become a mosaic of 11,200 acres of protected lands providing habitat for grassland birds, recreation and education opportunities for people, and economic development for local communities. It will boast vast prairies, sun-filled oak groves, and pristine streams. Accomplishing this vision requires strategic and tactical land protection methods, including purchase of land from willing sellers, conservation easement agreements, and stewardship agreements aimed at creating contiguous natural corridors.

The Corwith Hamill Legacy Fund serves as a lead gift in the Hackmatack Opportunity Fund, a partnership between Openlands and Ducks Unlimited to generate a capital pool of $3-$5 million to support land protection and restoration efforts.  These activities are outlined in the Hackmatack Conservation Partnership Land Protection Plan.  The Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation provided strategic support to plan and establish the Hackmatack Opportunity Fund, as well as supporting concurrent on-the-ground acquisition and restoration that accomplish real results and foster the ongoing cooperative nature of the work.

Openlands’ work spans urban, suburban, and rural communities, and for more than 50 years we have effectively paired advocacy with on-the-ground action. But perhaps more importantly, we know how to work in partnership with those who are inspired by a dream like Hackmatack. These efforts and the generosity of many will forever ensure that people are connected to nature close to where they live.

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