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Wisconsin may get new wildlife refuge

Wisconsin might get a new national wildlife refuge. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is studying the possible creation of the Hackmatack refuge along the Wisconsin-Illinois border.

Fifty-four square miles are being considered in Kenosha, Racine, and Walworth counties - plus Lake and McHenry counties in Illinois. Officials will study the idea for the next two years. And if they recommend the refuge, Congress would be asked to approve up to $45-million to establish it.

Chuck Traxler of the wildlife service says the final site may include 10-to-30,000 of both public and private land. The area has some of the last remaining tamarack trees in southern Wisconsin. And a group called Open-Lands says it wants to protect oak savannas and remnant grasses that house several threatened species.

Traxler says local residents have tried for years to create a national refuge. Supporters also say it would boost recreational opportunities like hunting and fishing. Landowners would not be forced to sell their property, since a refuge would have strings of both private and public land. It would be the first federal wildlife refuge in the Midwest since 2004, when the Glacier Ridge area was formed in Minnesota.