Projects Will Be Part of 50-State Report
WASHINGTON — Just days before the release of a 50-state report outlining some of the country's most promising ways to reconnect Americans to the natural world, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today highlighted two projects in the state of Illinois that will be included in the final report — representing what states believe are among the best investments in the nation to support a healthy, active population, conserve wildlife and working lands, and create travel, tourism and outdoor-recreation jobs across the country.
River restoration and new outdoor recreational opportunities on Chicago's South Side and a proposed new national wildlife refuge on the western edge of the Chicago/Milwaukee metropolitan region are among 100 projects nationwide that will be highlighted in next week's report — two in every state — as part of President Obama's America's Great Outdoors initiative to establish a 21st century conservation and recreation agenda and reconnect Americans to the outdoors.
The report is a result of 50 meetings with governors and stakeholders held by Salazar and other senior Interior officials to solicit ideas on how to best implement AGO in their states. These projects were identified for their potential to conserve important lands and build recreation opportunities and economic growth for the surrounding communities as part of close engagement with Gov. Pat Quinn and the state of Illinois, as well as private landowners, local- and tribal-elected officials, community organizations and outdoor-recreation and conservation stakeholders. The full 50-state report will be released in the coming weeks.
“Under the America's Great Outdoors Initiative, we are listening to the people of Illinois and communities across America and working with them on locally-based projects that will conserve the beauty and health of our land and water and open up more opportunities for people to enjoy them,” Salazar said. “My staff and I have been asking each governor for the most promising projects to support in their states, and we will do all we can to help move them forward.”
The two projects in Illinois highlighted by Salazar in the forthcoming report are:
Calumet Open Space Reserve
The Calumet Open Space Reserve project will promote redevelopment of an underused industrial zone while rehabilitating wetlands habitat in Chicago's South Side. The project will restore drained wetland basins, historic prairie and forest habitats, and create a link to existing conservation lands.
By acquiring and restoring brownfields, wetlands, streams, and coastline on the Calumet River, Lake Calumet, and Wolf Lake and in the Indiana Dunes region, this project will provide high-quality wildlife habitat and outdoor-recreation opportunities in an urban setting.
Chicago's Calumet Open Space Reserve Plan has slated more than 4,000 acres to become part of the Calumet Open Space Reserve. The plan calls for extensive multi-use trails and other outdoor-recreation opportunities in the metropolitan area. The city of Chicago continues to acquire environmentally important tracts of private land in the target area to become a state forest preserve or Chicago Park District natural area.
Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge
In 2010, the governors of Wisconsin and Illinois and senators and representatives from both states requested a feasibility study for a potential new national wildlife refuge. The proposed Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge, on the western edge of the Chicago/Milwaukee metropolitan region, is now approaching final stages of planning within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Hackmatack's planned area encompasses more than 60 public and private parks, preserves, and conservation areas whose natural ecosystems total about 23,000 acres and provide habitat for 109 species of concern, including 49 birds and 47 plants.
The refuge would be the nucleus of disparate fragments of conserved land in a 350,000-acre study area, giving a cohesive picture of landscape-scale conservation. The refuge would also provide outdoor education opportunities to the estimated 3.5 million people within 30 miles of the project area. This includes hundreds of thousands of children and their families who otherwise lack ready access to the next nearest refuge 150 miles away.
The state of Illinois has formally supported the plan. McHenry County, Illinois has expressed support for establishing the refuge and has open-space conservation revenues that may be available to leverage protection of lands near the proposed refuge.
The report will also include potential actions by Interior and its bureaus to support the projects identified. In Illinois, for example, the Department could coordinate with state and local entities to integrate the conservation, recreation, and restoration activities at Lake Calumet with the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and the Lake Michigan National Recreation Trail; provide financial and technical support to acquire lands in the Calumet Open Space Reserve target area; and offer technical assistance to public agencies and nonprofit organizations to advance the project.
The Department could also establish Hackmatack as a national wildlife refuge; work with state and local governments, private organizations, and landowners to expand the impact of the refuge through cooperative management of private and public lands; and continue coordination with the Southeast Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission to ensure that potential refuge-conservation projects complement planning activities for parks and open space in southeast Wisconsin.
The Department of the Interior will work with each of its key bureaus — including the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service — to direct available resources and personnel to make these projects a reality.
“The America's Great Outdoors Initiative turns the conventional wisdom about the federal government's role in conservation on its head,” Salazar said. “Rather than dictate policies or conservation strategies from Washington, it supports grassroots, locally driven initiatives.”
For more information on the President's America's Great Outdoors initiative, click here.
To view a map of the projects already announced, click here.