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Arrowwood Wetland Management District - Pingree, North Dakota

Waterfowl Production Areas

Waterfowl Production Area Sign.

Waterfowl Production Areas (WPAs) preserve wetlands and grasslands critical to waterfowl and other wildlife.

These public lands, managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, became part of the National Wildlife Refuge System in 1966 through the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act.

Funds to acquire WPAs are provided by the 1934 Duck Stamp Act which was amended by Congress in 1958 to authorize acquisition of uplands and wetlands as WPAs.

Nearly 95% of the WPAs are located in the prairie pothole areas of North and South Dakota, Minnesota, and Montana. North Dakota alone has 39% of the Nation's WPAs. The Arrowwood Wetland Management District (WMD) has a total of 28 WPAs for a total of 6,162 acres.

WPAs, often referred to as the "Prairie Jewels of the Refuge System," are open to a variety of public uses including hunting, fishing and trapping. These uses are subject to all applicable state and federal laws. Small game hunters using shotguns are required to use and possess only approved non-toxic shot while on WPAs.

Other public uses include wildlife observation, interpretation, photography and environmental education. WPAs in the Arrowwood WMD annually receive over 50,000 visitors, with most occurring during the fall hunting season.

WPAs are managed to attract and produce migratory waterfowl, migratory non-game birds and resident wildlife. Grazing, planting dense nesting cover, constructing new wetland areas, improving or restoring wetlands, water control structures, planting native grasses and prescribed burning are a few of the management tools used.

Photo of a pair of pintail ducks - Photo credit:  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The most common tools used include grazing, haying and prescribed burning, which are followed by a period of rest. Working with local ranchers, cattle are allowed to graze on certain WPAs using a permit system. This grazing closely mimics the effects native bison provided to stimulate plant growth.

Another tool available is haying which involves cutting and removing grass for later use by livestock. To protect the ground nesting birds, haying is only allowed after August 1st, by which time most nesting has been completed.

Prescribed fires are another tool which managers use to rejuvenate grasslands. These controlled burns mimic the prairie wildfires of long ago to stimulate native grasses and reduce invasive species.

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