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New National Wildlife Refuge in Illinois, Indiana (fwd)

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Tue, 08 Jul 97 17:07:35 -0700
From: rich_greenwood@mail.fws.gov

For Immediate Release: June 3, 1997  Contact: Georgia Parham 812-334-4261

Forest Clark 812-334-4261 x206

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Seeks Public Comment on Proposal for 
New National Wildlife Refuge in Illinois, Indiana

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the nation's primary Federal agency
responsible for conserving fish and wildlife and their habitats, is seeking
public input on a proposal to establish a new national wildlife refuge
along the Kankakee River in northwestern Indiana and northeastern Illinois.
 Open houses to explain the proposal will be held June 17, 18, and 19 in
Knox, Indiana;
Enos, Indiana; and Bradley, Illinois.

The purpose of the proposed Grand Kankakee Marsh National Wildlife Refuge
would be to restore natural habitats for waterfowl, migratory birds, fish
and other wildlife on about 30,000 acres associated with the historic Grand
Kankakee Marsh.  Much of the original marsh, once a world-famous waterfowl
and wildlife haven, has been drained and converted to other uses.  The
refuge, if approved, would likely consist of several tracts of land
primarily along the river which may be interspersed with lands on which
restoration efforts by other groups or agencies is planned.  In addition to
wildlife habitat, the refuge would provide wildlife-related public use

"For more than six decades, generations of conservationists have striven to
return part of the Grand Marsh as a national wildlife refuge .  Now, a
large bi-state partnership is intent on fulfilling the dream through a
massive coordination effort with the agriculture community and local
stakeholders," said David Hudak, Field Supervisor of the Service's
Bloomington, Indiana, office.

"What we envision for this proposal is not a traditional national wildlife
refuge, consisting of a large tract of land within the refuge boundary,"
said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Biologist Forest Clark.  "Rather, the
Grand Kankakee National Wildlife Refuge would be a series of smaller tracts
that link important existing areas of wildlife habitat within the Kankakee
River watershed.  That way, we can maximize efforts that are already
underway to bring back a little of what once was one of this country's most
exceptional natural areas."

Open houses will be held June 17 at the Starke County Public Library, 152
West Culver Road, Knox, Indiana; June 18 at the Ernest Collins Memorial
Center (Ambulance Service Center), U.S. 41 and State Road 14, Enos,
Indiana; and June 19 at the K-Mart Community Room, 990 Kinzie, Bradley,
Illinois.  Representatives of the Service, as well as economists who are
preparing an economic analysis of the refuge proposal, will be on hand from
noon to 6:30 p.m. to talk to
people interested in the proposal and to hear any ideas or concerns about
the project.  The public is invited to provide comments at the open houses
or to submit written comments.  

"It is an essential part of the refuge proposal process that the public be
given every opportunity to be involved," Clark said.  "The most important
job we have now is to listen to people and hear their ideas and concerns."

Information obtained from the public will be used by the Service in
developing an Environmental Assessment aimed at determining whether or not
a new refuge along the Kankakee River is feasible.  Part of the Assessment
involves gathering public comment, but in addition, an economic analysis
will be conducted.  The analysis will estimate the potential economic
impacts on local communities if a new refuge is established.

Clark said that if approved, the refuge would encompass lands acquired from
willing sellers only.  "If we do not find interest from landowners in a
particular area, we would have the flexibility to look at other places in
the watershed that would achieve our goals for the refuge."

The Grand Marsh of the Kankakee once stretched from the river's headwaters
near South Bend in St. Joseph County, Indiana, westward to Momence,
Illinois.  There, a rock ledge in the riverbed created a natural dam that
formed the vast wetland.
The Grand Marsh covered up to a million acres before the turn of the
and was known worldwide as a hunting site for waterfowl and other wildlife.
 Much of the wetland has vanished with the removal of the rock ledge, other
drainage projects, and conversion of land to other uses.

"It is not possible, nor desirable in this day and age, to restore the
Grand Kankakee Marsh as it once existed," said Clark.  "The intent of this
refuge proposal is to allow the marsh to come back, in a few places, and
restore a part of the remarkable natural heritage of northern Indiana and

The open houses are an opportunity for the public to ask questions about
how the refuge might be managed, how it would contribute to local property
taxes, and how issues such as drainage and levees would be addressed.  The
Service welcomes input on these and other topics of concern.

The National Wildlife Refuge System, administered by the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service, encompasses over 500 refuges totaling more than 90
million acres.  Refuges are established to enhance populations of migratory
birds, endangered species, nationally significant fish and important
wildlife habitats.  Many refuges offer a wide range of public use
opportunities compatible with fish and wildlife management, including
hunting, fishing, wildlife watching, and environmental education.  

For more information on the proposal for Grand Kankakee Marsh National
Wildlife Refuge, or to submit comments, contact Dave Hudak, Field
Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 620 South Walker Street,
Bloomington, Indiana 47403, 812-334-4261.


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Date: Tues, 3 June 1997 16:40:00 -0600 (MDT) 
From: Mitch Snow <mitch_snow@mail.fws.gov>
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Subject: New National Wildlife Refuge in Illinois, Indiana
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