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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
Forest Clark 812-334-4261 x 206
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
"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
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
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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Subject: ASSESSMENT FOR PROPOSED GRAND KANKAKEE REFUGE AVAILABLE FOR REVIEW