The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service announced Thursday that it has extended the comment period to Aug. 13 on the proposed Kankakee National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area.
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service officials say it’s an effort to give residents the opportunity to comment on the refuge after its recent open houses in Pembroke Township and in Momence.
In order to view the refuge document online, visit bit.ly/FWSrefuge and then click on the tab labeled Draft Conservation Vision Document on the left; and then open the link at the bottom of the page.
After reviewing the draft conservation vision, email comments to R3Planning@fws.gov with the subject line Kankakee NWR LPP Comment. You can also mail your comments to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, ATTN: Refuges — Kankakee NWR Comment, 5600 American Blvd. West Suite 990, Bloomington, MN 55437-1458.
The service said the majority of conversations at the two previous open houses focused on clarifying information. In a news release, the group said its policy is not to condemn land through the use of eminent domain or any other method. The land is purchased from willing sellers, it said.
As such, the service says, the final size and extent of the refuge will be wholly dependent on the interest of local landowners. The refuge can only grow up to 59% of the 21,552-acre acquisition boundary, capping protection at 12,716 acres.
As the new owner of any property purchased for the refuge, the service will be the responsible party for all state drainage laws.
As the refuge is wildlife and habitat focused, its stated goal is to avoid buildings and structures. Rather, it says, it is focused on providing habitat for migratory birds like the redheaded woodpecker and pollinators like the monarch butterfly.
As for why the service is looking to create the refuge, it says, “Education is one of our best conservation tools and youth are some of the best conservationists. We are here to provide outdoor recreational and environmental education opportunities for everyone.”
The service said after the comment period closes, it will review all comments received and consider changes in order to finalize the conservation vision document.
The Kankakee County Board adopted a resolution on July 13 opposing the refuge because it could potentially cover approximately 28 square miles, including areas on both sides of the Kankakee River from Momence east to the Indiana state line and a significant portion of Pembroke Township and the village of Hopkins Park.
The county said the refuge would also take future property tax off the rolls in both communities and also eliminate valuable farmland.