Openlands' Remarks from Gov. Quinn's Land Acquisitions Press Conference

February 20, 2013

Openlands Policy Director Lenore Beyer-Clow spoke alongside Illinois Governor Pat Quinn and Illinois Department of Natural Resources Director Marc Miller on Wednesday, February 20, at a land acquisitions press conference in Springfield. Here are her remarks:

I am Lenore Beyer-Clow, Policy Director at Openlands, and I am speaking on behalf of the fabulous partnership that was formed through creation of the first National Wildlife Refuge in Northeastern Illinois, Hackmatack. The acquisition completed by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources was critical to formally establishing the refuge and kick off a vision of landscape scale conservation and complementary economic development along the border of Illinois and Wisconsin.

Hackmatack was created by a group of conservation minded local citizens, the Friends of Hackmatack, who cared about the land in our own backyards. We wanted to raise the level of conservation to the national scale to not only protect important migratory bird habitat but to also provide easy access for an urban population to enjoy and value these natural resources and take action to protect them forever.

As the project moved from a dream to a reality, valuable conservation partners including Sierra Club and Trust for Public Land brought important expertise and energy.

Once the refuge was authorized by Secretary of the Interior Salazar on August 15 of 2012, Openlands began working diligently to identify land within the designated refuge boundary for acquisition from willing sellers. A unique partnership was formed with non-profit conservation organizations and the McHenry County Conservation District, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service to acquire the first parcel and transfer ownership interest through a conservation easement to the Fish and Wildlife Service to actually establish the refuge. USFWS accepted the easement on November 6, and the IDNR acquired the entire parcel in December. The McHenry County Conservation District has agreed to manage and restore the land. Non-profit partners including the McHenry County Conservation Foundation and the Friends of Hackmatack as well as Openlands made donations to cover the cost of the easement. It is a unique and complicated partnership that recognizes the skills and contributions of local, state, and national governmental organizations and private non-profit conservation organizations. IDNR played an important role in making this transaction happen, and I commend Director Miller, John Rogner, Todd Rettig, and Connie Waggoner for their diligence.

This was a critical first step in a visionary plan for land and water conservation in Northern Illinois. But Hackmatack isn’t only about short eared owls and upland sandpipers. Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge is within an hour's drive from Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison, and Rockford. It will attract tourism, outdoor recreation, including hunting and bird watching and economic development opportunities. The local communities are beginning to see the growth of small businesses and significant increases in visitors.

Openlands commends the commitment of the IDNR to moving the vision of Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge forward and recognizing its incredible potential to leverage state investment with local, national, and private conservation dollars as well as create important partnerships for stewardship of the land.

All of us here are really trying to help connect people to nature and help them treasure the landscape which we care about so deeply. Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge and other land protected throughout the state gives the people of Illinois a place to do that.

Thank you.

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