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ASSESSMENT FOR PROPOSED GRAND KANKAKEE REFUGE AVAILABLE FOR



     


______________________________
For Immediate Release          Contact: Georgia Parham 812-334-4261 x203 
March 17, 1998                 E:mail: Georgia_Parham@mail.fws.gov 
EA98-24                        David Hudak 812-334-4261 x 200
E:mail: David_Hudak@mail.fws.gov
Forest Clark 812-334-4261 x 206
E:mail: Forest_Clark@mail.fws.gov
     
DRAFT ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT FOR PROPOSED GRAND KANKAKEE 
MARSH NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE NOW AVAILABLE FOR REVIEW
     
A draft analysis of the environmental effects of creating a new national 
wildlife refuge in northeastern Illinois and northwestern Indiana has been 
developed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and is now available for 
public review and comment.  The environmental assessment includes a study 
of the economic impacts of the proposed refuge. 
     
Copies of the draft environmental assessment are available for review at 
public libraries throughout the Kankakee River watershed. Comments on the 
draft document will be accepted through April 21, 1998. The document may 
be viewed on the Service's worldwide web site at 
www.fws.gov/~r3pao/ext_affr/news.htm. 
     
"The draft environmental assessment is the culmination of a vigorous 
public involvement effort for this refuge proposal," said David Hudak, 
Field Supervisor for the Service's Bloomington, Indiana, field office. 
"Over the past 18 months, we have conducted three public meetings, met 
with dozens of interested groups and numerous individuals in Indiana and 
Illinois, and encouraged public comment through periodic updates to an 
extensive mailing list.  We continue to urge the public to learn more 
about this proposal and to comment on the draft document." 
     
The proposed Grand Kankakee Marsh National Wildlife Refuge includes 30,000 
acres within the 3.3-million-acre Kankakee River watershed.  The draft 
environmental assessment analyzes several issues such as the proposed 
refuge's effects on water quality in the Kankakee River;  diversity and 
abundance of Service "trust resources" (migratory birds and endangered 
species); drainage and flood control in the watershed; county tax revenues 
and Service revenue sharing payments; the agricultural economy; and private 
property rights of landowners within the watershed.  The Service identified 
these issues through the public comment process during development of the 
assessment. 
     
The draft environmental assessment also suggests a management direction 
for the new refuge if it is approved.  The purpose of the refuge would be 
for the development, advancement, management, conservation, and protection 
of fish and wildlife resources.  Broad goals outlined for the proposed 
refuge in the environmental assessment include restoring, where practical, 
native species of plants and animals that are or may become threatened or 
endangered; conserving the migratory bird resource;  maintaining a 
diversity of plants and animals on lands within the proposed refuge; 
encouraging public understanding and appreciation of fish and wildlife and 
their habitats; and providing wildlife-oriented recreation activities when 
compatible with the purpose of the refuge. 
     
In analyzing the impacts of the proposed refuge, the Service looked at a 
range of alternatives for the refuge.  A "no-action" alternative (not 
establishing a refuge and continuing current efforts to conserve and 
restore the Kankakee River's resources) was considered, along with four 
action alternatives that focus on conservation of endangered species, 
protection of wetlands, conservation of grasslands and oak savannas in the 
watershed, and a combination of these.  The Service's preferred strategy 
would be to establish the refuge to focus on a combination of resources. 
     
An economic impact assessment prepared by Purdue University is included in 
the environmental assessment.  The economic study examines the four action 
alternatives and the direct and indirect impacts that would occur from a 
change in land use if a refuge is established.  The study projects impacts 
over a 30-year period and concludes that refuge establishment would result 
in an increase in net personal income and employment in the watershed over 
30 years. 
     
The proposal for a national wildlife refuge in the Kankakee River 
watershed comes at a time when many species of wildlife associated with 
the area's wetlands and grasslands, including many songbirds and 
shorebirds, are declining. The Kankakee River basin supports five 
Federally endangered plants and animals: Mitchell's satyr butterfly, 
Indiana bat, copperbelly watersnake, Mead's milkweed, and eastern 
prairie-fringed orchid, as well as 75 state-listed species. 
     
The habitats upon which these species depend are also declining.  The 
Kankakee watershed once contained one of the most important freshwater 
wetlands in the world, rivaling Florida's Everglades in the diversity of 
fish and wildlife it supported.  Only remnants of the marsh now remain. 
Indiana and Illinois have lost 87 percent and 85 percent, respectively, of 
their historic wetlands, and just 1 percent remains of the vast tallgrass 
prairie that once stretched from western Indiana and Illinois to Texas. 
     
Comments on the draft environmental assessment for the proposed Grand 
Kankakee Marsh National Wildlife Refuge will be accepted through April 21, 
1998.  Public comments received by the Service will be addressed in a final 
environmental assessment.  A decision on the refuge proposal will be made 
once the final assessment is completed.  Comments may be directed to U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service, Branch of Planning and Ascertainment, 1 Federal 
Drive, Fort Snelling, Minnesota 55111-4056 or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, 620 South Walker Street, Bloomington, IN 47403-2121. 
For more information on the refuge proposal or the draft environmental 
assessment, call 812-334-4261. 
     
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