Long Lake National Wildlife Refuge
Mountain-Prairie Region

Waterfowl Production Areas

Waterfowl Production Areas (WPAs) are properties that have been purchased with money from the sale of Duck Stamps. Established to protect and restore waterfowl habitat, these small but important parts of the National Wildlife Refuge System play a critical role providing much needed habitat for wildlife. Nearly 95 percent of the WPAs in the United States are located in the prairie pothole region.

WPAs in the Long Lake WMD consist of approximately 34 percent wetlands, 35 percent native grass, 14 percent tame grass, 12 percent DNC, four percent cropland, and one percent woodlands.

Wetlands, the second largest habitat component of WPAs, occupy 34 percent of the total acreage. Spring 2001 wetland levels were full. This is due in part to above normal snowfall received during the last two months of 2000. Also, 83 percent of the precipitation received during 2001 happened during the first six months of the year. The late summer and fall were exceptionally dry and mild. By freeze up many of the smaller wetlands were dry; however, some of the larger wetlands were still at there highest levels in recent history. At the time of this writing in mid-February, 2002 below average snowfall is pointing to the lowest springtime wetland levels in the last several years.
Forest or woodland occupies less than 1 percent of the total WPA acreage. Most woodlands exist as shelterbelts or tree rows that were planted prior to FWS purchase or occur as individual trees volunteering along wetland margins or in moist low areas. Excluding riparian areas where historically trees occupied the corridors along rivers and streams trees land management practices discourage development of trees on the prairie landscape. Recent policies and ecosystem management philosophies provide direction to manage, protect, and restore the natural prairie landscape which excludes development of tree plantings and invasion of competitive nonnative trees on the prairie landscape.
Approximately 4 percent of the WPA acreage is classified as cropland in any given year. In reality, cropland rotates in and out of cover or is established for a somewhat longer period to provide consistent winter food for resident wildlife on larger areas. Except for a small amount of force account farming on the WPAs, all work is done by cooperators. General direction of management is to re-establish native grass on prior farmed and tamegrass which will reduce and eventually eliminate cropland fields on WPAs.
Native grasslands dominate the habitat acreage on WPAs, occupying approximately 35 percent of the overall acreage. Staff manage this habitat type with prescribed burning, grazing, and haying. Tame grasslands occupy 26 percent of the total WPA acreage. Personnel manage these areas with haying, burning, grazing, farming and re-seeding. Annually, approximately 300 acres of tamegrass are targeted for re-establishment of mixed-grass natives, until all tamegrass has been converted. These seedings will be on both WPA’s and refuges in the Long Lake WMD.In 2001 three WPA’s had fields seeded to grasses. The WPAs included: Rath - 90 acres; Nelson - 21 acres; and Bechold - 16 acres. All of the fields were formerly cropped fields. All fields were seeded at a rate of 8 pounds/acre PLS. The mixture consisted of 2 pounds western wheatgrass, 1.8 pounds green needlegrass, 0.6 pounds blue grama, 0.6 pounds side oats, 1 pound big bluestem, 0.8 pounds switchgrass, and 1 pound little bluestem. All seeding was “no tilled” into a prior years small grain crop. A Truax drill was used. The fields had a chemical application of 1 qt./AC Round-Up, three to five days prior to seeding. Ammonium Sulfate was added to the tank mix at 1 - 2 %.

After seeding, the fields were mowed to reduce weed competition. The biggest problem weed after seeding seemed to be pigeon grass.

The North Dakota Natural Resource Ecologist identified a site on Kleppe/Lang WPA as habitat for Loesel's twayblade orchid (Liparis loeselii). The Loesel’s twayblade orchid is listed as “Imperiled” in North Dakota by the the North Dakota Natural Heritage Program. This area is one of four ND sites and will be protected. In 1997 staff discussed management for this plant with the ecologist. Areas with this plant are not adversely affected by management activities, and potentially benefit from haying and grazing.

White-tailed deer are abundant and occupy nearly all of the WPA units distributed across the three county District. The nesting cover provided as seeded DNC and native undisturbed grasslands for waterfowl and upland nesting birds also provides excellent habitat for white-tailed deer. Habitat enhancement through edge “affect” is provided by surrounding private lands managed for annual production of crops and livestock and by occasional habitat management treatments including prescribed burning, grazing, and haying.

The Missouri River breaks characteristic of the west edge of the WMD in Burleigh and Emmons Counties provides habitat for small herds of mule deer. Occasionally, pronghorn are observed in the western most reaches of the WMD along the breaks and mixed grass prairie areas adjacent to the Missouri River.

Coyote and red fox are locally abundant across the WMD with inverse population relationships. Mange appears to be a temporary widespread issue reducing populations of the canids in localized areas across the WMD.

Porcupine are commonly observed despite a general lack of woodland habitat in this prairie environment. Raccoon, skunk, mink, weasel, badger, and beaver are also abundant.

Ring-necked pheasant are abundant and have a wide distribution on lands in the western part of the WMD referred to as the Missouri Slope. Their populations extend to the Missouri Coteau during periods of mild winters, but populations often become localized due to the extended periods of harsh winter weather generally experienced there.

Sharp-tailed grouse populations are distributed across the WMD with population levels generally determined by the quantity and quality of native grasslands and inter-mingled tamegrass areas.

Gray partridge populations fluctuate widely during the climatic periods which range from drought to deluge and appear to respond favorably to drier periods and negatively to wet periods.

Last updated: August 8, 2011