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Some not pleased by Hackmatack

Not everyone is pleased with last week’s designation that marks county land for an expansive wildlife refuge.

For environmentalists and nature lovers, Hackmatack Wildlife Refuge was an easy decision. For Washington politicians who announced the designation last week in McHenry County, it was a lesson in bipartisan politics. And for other supporters, Hackmatack is a boon for its economic benefits alone.

But for some, such as the Bull Valley Association, the refuge is better off in someone else’s backyard.

The Bull Valley Association penned a seven-page letter last June and sent it to its members and other Bull Valley residents. In the letter, the Bull Valley Association said it had studied the short- and long-term effects of the wildlife refuge and subsequently led the opposition against the village’s inclusion in Hackmatack’s boundaries.

Since the letter’s release last year, Bull Valley was taken out of Hackmatack boundaries.

Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge became the first and only refuge in northern Illinois and spans 11,000 acres in McHenry County and southern Wisconsin.

The refuge sets aside public lands for wildlife protection under the control of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Precious to many Bull Valley residents is the area’s 80-plus miles of protected equestrian trails, which the refuge would restrict, said Bull Valley Association Vice President Tom Paulsen, a horse owner.

Local control is better than decision-makers from afar, the Bull Valley Association argued.

The McHenry County Conservation District, the group has said, has better knowledge of the area, not the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, with headquarters in Minnesota.

In its letter, the Bull Valley Association argued that being included in the refuge would mean residents would have little local control of the land.

“The Bull Valley Association Board does not feel our residents should give up their rights to an agency that has little knowledge or interest in what our community represents to its residents,” the letter stated.

Furthermore, the Bull Valley Association argued it and other Bull Valley residents were “proven stewards of our plants, wildlife and their habitat; and we have strongly supported the goals of the local conservation agencies.”

“It’s another government agency, and I don’t see that we need it for the Bull Valley area,” Paulsen said Friday. “... We’re very supportive of environmental groups, just not the way it was presented.”

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