See the CCP
The comprehensive conservation plan is provided here in portable document format (pdf). To see files, you need Acrobat Reader software, and it is available for free on the Adobe website.
Full CCP (3 MB)
CCP by Chapter
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Introduction and Background (109 KB)
Chapter 2: The Planning Process (46 KB)
Chapter 3: The Refuge Environment (557 KB)
Chapter 4: Management Direction (843 KB)
Chapter 5: Plan Implementation (24 KB)
Index (10 KB)
Appendix (320 KB)
Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge Comprehensive Conservation Plan
A comprehensive conservation plan for the Refuge was completed in September 2001. The plan discusses the challenges and opportunities the Refuge will face in the next 15 years, and it outlines goals and objectives for Refuge management and specific strategies for achieving those goals and objectives.
Comprehensive conservation planning depends heavily on the involvement of people who care about the National Wildlife Refuge System, conserving natural resources, and their local communities. The Service greatly appreciates the time and thought invested by many people throughout the planning process.
Located 25 miles southwest of Saginaw Bay in south central Michigan, Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge manages a variety of habitats that provide resting, foraging, and nesting opportunities for nearly 300 species of resident and migratory birds.
The Refuge's major habitat types include wetlands (3,771 acres); forests (3,519 acres); agricultural lands (1,180 acres); and grasslands (519 acres). This diversity of habitats supports an abundance of plant, mammal, reptile, amphibian, and fish species.
The Refuge is home to a variety of species that are federally listed or state-listed as threatened or endangered. These species include the Eastern fox snake, the short-eared owl, the Peregrine falcon and the least bittern. Fish found in Refuge waters or expected to inhabit refuge waters include the lake sturgeon, state-listed as a threatened species in Michigan, and the river darter, a state-listed endangered species.
The comprehensive conservation plan can be viewed through this website, and copies are available at the Refuge. To request a copy, you can write to the Refuge at: Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge, 6975 Mower Road, Saginaw, MI 48601.
These are the steps that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service follows in comprehensive conservation planning; the step that the Sherburne NWR has reached is highlighted:
- Preplanning: Plan the Plan
- Initiate Public Involvement and Scoping
- Review Vision Statement and Goals and Determine Significant Issues
- Develop and Analyze Alternatives, Including the Proposed Action
- Prepare a Draft CCP and NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) Document
- Prepare and Adopt Final CCP
- Implement Plan, Monitor and Evaluate
- Review and Revise the Plan
Who We Are and What We Do
Water, Woods and Wildlife
People and the Refuge
The Saginaw River and Bay Natural Resource Damage Assessment Settlement
Planned Refuge Programs
Implementing the CCP
A Final Note
Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge is a crossroads for migrating geese, ducks, swans, herons, raptors and shorebirds. Situated on the southern edge of Saginaw, Michigan, the Refuge's mosaic of wetland, bottomland hardwood forest and grassland habitats draws more than 260 bird species, more than 30 mammal species, more than 20 species of reptiles and amphibians, and more than 70 species of fish.
Managing a refuge demands long-range planning that reflects vision, science and people. The Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) describes how we will provide for migratory species within our boundaries, work with partners to improve habitats beyond our boundaries, expand opportunities for wildlife viewing and fishing, and develop environmental education and outreach programs to increase appreciation of fish and wildlife.
This summary offers a brief overview of the Refuge and what we hope to accomplish in the next 15 years.
Established in 1953, Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge (Refuge) is 9,226 acres in size. The Refuge was authorized under the Migratory Bird Conservation Act "... for use as an inviolate sanctuary, or for any other management purpose, for migratory birds." Additional purposes designated under the Refuge Recreation Act are "... (1) incidental fish and wildlife-oriented recreational development, (2) the protection of natural resources, [and] (3) the conservation of endangered and threatened species."
We believe the Refuge's mission is to preserve and manage an undeveloped expanse of floodplain forest, marshes, rivers, and associated habitat within an agricultural and urban landscape through habitat management; to encourage public stewardship; to offer educational programs; and to participate in private land activities. Click here to see a map (188KB) of Refuge boundaries.
Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge also manages the 304-acre Wyandotte National Wildlife Refuge and the 597-acre Michigan Islands National Wildlife Refuge. Management of the Wyandotte and Michigan Islands national wildlife refuges will be described in separate comprehensive conservation plans.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is the primary federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish and wildlife and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. Specific responsibilities include enforcing federal wildlife laws, managing migratory bird populations, restoring nationally significant fisheries, administering the Endangered Species Act, and restoring wildlife habitat such as wetlands.
The Service's role also includes managing the National Wildlife Refuge System, the world's largest collection of lands specifically managed for fish and wildlife. The System is a network of more than 500 national wildlife refuges encompassing more than 93 million acres of public land and water. The majority of these lands - 82 percent - are in Alaska, with approximately 16 million acres spread across the lower 48 states and several island territories. National wildlife refuges provide habitat for more than 5,000 species of birds, mammals, fish and insects.
Refuges are also unique places for people. When it is compatible with wildlife and habitat needs and the purpose for which the refuge was established, refuges can be used for wildlife-dependent activities such as hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, photography, environmental education and environmental interpretation.
Comprehensive conservation planning is based on communication with a wide range of people and organizations, including the public, other Federal agencies, the State of Michigan, Tribal governments, local governments and private organizations. The plan will guide Refuge management for the next 15 years.
Work on the comprehensive conservation plan began in December 1997. Initially, members of the regional planning staff and staff of Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge identified a list of issues and concerns that were associated with the management of the Refuge. These preliminary issues and concerns were based on staff knowledge of the area and contacts with citizens in the community. Refuge staff and Service planners then asked Refuge neighbors, organizations, local government units, schools, and interested citizens to share their thoughts in a series of open houses and focus groups.
Members of the public raised a diverse range of issues. We organized the issues raised by the staff and public into themes - public use, resource protection, maintenance, and general issues.
Public use of national wildlife refuges requires a delicate balance. The mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System is to conserve, manage and, when appropriate, restore the fish, wildlife and plant resources and their habitats. Recreational uses that are wildlife-dependent and that are compatible with the refuge purpose are considered an appropriate way of enhancing people's appreciation for fish and wildlife. However, what constitutes compatible human activity is not always clear, and people's expectations of refuge activities vary considerably.
Participants in open house events and focus group meetings expressed a wide range of philosophies on public use of the Refuge. Some people would like to see management of the Refuge focus on wildlife and habitat with no increase of public access and public use of the Refuge. Other people would like to see an expanded trail system and enhanced access for activities such as horseback riding, automobile tours, environmental education, hiking, hunting, fishing, boating, and bicycling.
The subject of airboats on rivers flowing through the Refuge drew a strong response from people who believe that the Refuge should provide a tranquil place to view birds. Airboat operators were described as having "disregard" for anglers and wildlife observers. Comments included concerns about safety on the river as well as the noise disturbance. Participants suggested a variety of solutions, including instituting a no-wake zone; expanding noise abatement codes; strictly enforcing wildlife harassment codes; and implementing horsepower or speed restrictions.
Many opinions exist about the priority of resource protection issues. Some people said that enhanced law enforcement is a critical need, and others said that reducing the amount of sediment and chemical waste that flows through the Refuge should be a priority. Control of exotic species, such as purple loosestrife, round goby and zebra mussel, as well as invasive species such as phragmites, were cited as protection issues. Concern was also expressed about mosquito control. Prioritizing land acquisition is another expansion issue facing Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge, according to open house and focus group participants.
Dike maintenance was the primary maintenance issue that emerged from the public involvement process. The need to maintain dikes was described as a top priority, particularly for dikes damaged by burrowing muskrats and, in moist soil units, wave action. Recognizing the role the Refuge plays in relieving flood pressure, people recommended conserving some areas of the Refuge as flood retention areas.
Some people said that the cultural diversity efforts at the Refuge are failing to reach targeted communities. Others suggested that monitoring of the Partners for Wildlife habitat restoration efforts is needed to evaluate what has been accomplished so far. Comments on revenue issues included statements that current staffing at Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge needs more funding. Other participants questioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's plans to expand the Refuge when its ability to manage or maintain the existing wildlife Refuge is already a challenge.
The Refuge manages a variety of habitats that provide resting, foraging, and nesting opportunities for nearly 300 species of resident and migratory birds. The major habitat types include wetlands (3,771 acres), forests (3,519 acres), agricultural lands (1,180 acres), and grasslands (580 acres). This diversity of habitats also supports an abundance of plant, mammal, reptile, amphibian, and fish species.
The management techniques currently used on the Refuge include control of water levels in moist soil units and pools, biological and chemical control of invasive plant species, prescribed burning, mowing, tree planting, grass seeding, and hunting of white-tailed deer and Canada geese.
Water and the effects of water dominate the ecological processes on the Refuge. A variety of vegetative communities that are associated with large rivers and their floodplains are found within the authorized boundaries of the Refuge. These communities include some of the last remaining bottomland hardwood forests in Saginaw County. Bottomland forests are the transitional habitats between aquatic and terrestrial communities. In the Refuge, most of these forests are lowland hardwood wetlands. They are characterized by extensive lateral flooding during times of heavy precipitation. Soils are frequently either moist or saturated. This community type consists of maple, oak, hickory, ash, willow, elm and cottonwood.
Another dominant community type is emergent marsh habitat, which consists of cattail, bulrush, sedges, reed canary grass, cut-grass, cord grass, water plantain, smartweed and millet. A shrub and grass habitat type is often found along the edges of the marsh community. The brush species are usually buttonbush, willow, ash, dogwood, and cottonwood. Wetter grass species such as reed canary grass are often mixed in with these species. There are also areas of open land vegetation, which includes the grasslands and croplands. The croplands are usually farmed for corn, winter wheat, soybeans or barley. However, the fields are very susceptible to seasonal flooding along the river corridors and must be diked and tiled to be productive. The grasslands are usually abandoned farmlands that are seasonally flooded and are reverting to open field habitats.
Much of the land in the Refuge is classified as wetland by the Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the State of Michigan, and other agencies responsible for land stewardship. Upland forest is also found within the authorized boundaries of the Refuge. This vegetation type is found on slightly higher elevations and in drier soil conditions and is a true terrestrial community. Upland forests are characterized by little lateral flooding during times of heavy precipitation and soils are more mesic in nature. This community comprises beech, sugar maple, basswood, and birch.
The Refuge's habitats satisfy the needs of diverse wildlife species. Portions of the waterfowl flights from both the Mississippi and Atlantic flyways use the area each spring and fall. Peak waterfowl numbers on the Refuge exceed 40,000 to 50,000 ducks, 20,000 to 30,000 geese, and 700 to 1,200 swans. The American black duck and Canada geese are common on the Refuge in the fall, winter and early spring.
Refuge wetlands provide food, nesting and roosting areas for more than 40 species of shore and wading birds. Average peak numbers range from 1,800 to 2,000 for shorebirds and from 400 to 500 for wading birds.
Bottomland forests within the Refuge are important for many neo-tropical migrants and other songbirds. The forests provide some of the last remaining nesting and migration habitat in the Saginaw area for a variety of warblers, thrushes, vireos, woodpeckers and flycatchers.
The Refuge supports at least 15 species of predatory birds on either a seasonal or permanent basis. The mix of open fields, wetlands and woods are essential habitats for most of these birds. The red-shouldered hawk, osprey, and bald eagle, all of which are species of concern on state and federal lists, have been observed using the Refuge. Peak numbers for raptors on the Refuge range from 70 to 120.
More than 30 mammals have been recorded in or near the refuge. White-tailed deer populations have been as high as 130 deer per square mile and as low as 10 per square mile. Currently, we are trying to hold the deer population to 30 per square mile. Coyote and fox are common on the Refuge, and wetlands provide excellent habitat for muskrat, beaver, opossum, raccoon, mink and, occasionally, otter. The forested and upland areas support rabbit, mice, voles, shrews and squirrels.
Scientific surveys have recorded more than 20 species of reptiles and amphibians in the Saginaw Watershed near Saginaw, including one state-listed threatened species (eastern fox snake) and one Federal candidate species (Blanding's turtle).
In addition to the eastern fox snake and Blanding's turtle, 15 state-listed endangered or threatened animal species use habitats in the Shiawassee Flats area. The only plant species on the Federal and state lists of endangered and threatened species that is known to occur in the area is the Eastern prairie fringed orchid (Platanthera leucophaea). However, little definitive inventory work has been done.
The Refuge's sloughs, rivers, and marshes support more than 70 species of forage and game fish. Because there are no migratory impediments between the Refuge and Saginaw Bay, the most productive shallow water bay on Lake Huron, the Refuge's wetland habitats are critical as spawning and nursery areas. Northern pike and lake sturgeon use these areas. The large populations of shiners, minnows, and other forage fish not only support game fish populations - yellow perch, crappie, walleye, channel catfish, and pike - but also support a diversity and large numbers of wading, water, and predatory bird species along with some waterfowl populations. A number of Great Lakes fish, including white bass, white sucker and walleye, move to the Refuge and beyond every year to spawn. The Shiawassee Flats and other Refuge wetlands provide nursery areas for these fish populations. With diminishing wetland resources the Refuge has a unique role in protecting fish habitat and valuable fish resources.
The Saginaw Bay Watershed is extensively degraded and has lost much of its habitat diversity. Coastal and riparian wetlands that provided for a significant northern pike population, once an important commercial fishery, have been lost or degraded through development. Only a remnant northern pike population exists today in Saginaw Bay. Restoration of extensive areas of riparian wetland habitats could provide a much needed boost to this depleted population. Some stretches of the Tittabawassee River are believed to contain habitat for the lake sturgeon, (a Species of Special Concern) with anecdotal reports of adult sightings in the river. Occasionally adult and sub-adult sturgeons are caught in commercial nets in Saginaw Bay, so there is potential to restore the population by enhancing and protecting the spawning habitat in the Tittabawassee River.
Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge is a haven for people as well as wildlife. In 1998, more than 70,000 people visited the Refuge to participate in a wide range of activities. Eighty-two percent of the people visiting the Refuge came for hiking, bicycling, cross country skiing, wildlife observation and photography. About 6 percent of visitors in 1998 came to hunt, fish and trap.
Interstate and state highways provide easy access to the Saginaw area. On an average day, more than 45,000 vehicles travel just east of the Refuge through Bridgeport on Interstate 75. The state's number one attraction, Frankenmuth, a German heritage town, and a large retail outlet in Birch Run lie within 25 miles of the Refuge.
Several fish and wildlife-related recreation and/or education areas are located within 40 miles of Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge. The adjoining Shiawassee River State Game Area, which is managed by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, offers hunting and fishing opportunities. Several Saginaw County parks provide trails, fishing and environmental education/interpretation programs. Bay City State Recreation Area, Hartley Outdoor Education Center, and Chippewa Nature Center offer environmental education and interpretive programs.
In 1999, the Service, the State of Michigan and the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe settled a claim for natural resource damages in the Saginaw River and Bay. The primary defendant in this case was General Motors because of its long-term releases of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) to the river. As part of the settlement, General Motors, the City of Saginaw, and the City of Bay City will pay $28.22 million in direct costs for sediment removal, restoration projects, and reimbursement of government costs. The settlement will result in the removal of contaminated sediments from the Saginaw River and it will restore and protect habitat in the Saginaw River and Bay area.
Three components of the settlement affect the Refuge. First, the defendants transferred Little Charity Island and about 264 acres of Big Charity Island to the Service for the purpose of habitat restoration and protection. Second, the Refuge received two 99-year leases of the Green Point Environmental Learning Center, which includes the interpretive center building and 80 acres of riparian and upland habitat. Third, 3 years after the settlement, the defendants are to transfer $520,000 to the Service for Green Point Environmental Learning Center activities.
The Service will manage the Charity Islands as part of the Michigan Islands National Wildlife Refuge. The long-term leases make it possible to better develop and utilize the Learning Center and its property. The additional funds will enhance the programs offered at the Learning Center.
We recognize that we face challenges from outside the Refuge boundaries. These challenges include more frequent flooding with higher flows along with increased potential for contaminants. As interest and population grows in the Saginaw area, public use pressure may challenge the Refuge's wildlife purposes. And, because of the proximity to the urban population and its crime problems, the Refuge may experience some of the same illegal activities. We intend to work outside our boundaries to confront these challenges.
We also recognize the opportunities open to the Refuge. We have the ability to provide a remarkably large natural area for wildlife within an urban and agricultural landscape. We have the ability to provide wildlife-dependent recreation close to an urban and tourist population, and we have the ability to provide an environmental message of stewardship to these same populations.
We intend to take advantage of our opportunities. We will provide a diversity of habitat for wildlife while recognizing the importance of the Refuge to waterfowl. We will expand the lands that we manage by acquiring lands within the authorized boundary of the Refuge as funds and willing sellers permit. In addition, we will expand our interaction and services to the public. We will make the Refuge more accessible. We will expand and improve our educational opportunities and reach out to more people.
Several circumstances are coming together now that encourage us to think that our intentions are realistic. First, we were authorized to expand our boundaries in 1996. Second, congressional interest in planning and the recognition of comprehensive conservation plans in the budgeting process give us encouragement that our plans will be implemented. Third, the General Motors settlement affords us new opportunities. Fourth, the Refuge and its mission are experiencing growing public support through the Friends group, local governments, and volunteers. This support is best exemplified by support for a Great Lakes Discovery Center at Bridgeport, where several groups are working together to build the center.
Briefly, these are our plans.
We intend to provide a large acreage of wetland habitat and unfragmented forest. We intend to diversify and enlarge natural habitats by eliminating mosquito control and by reducing cropland. We intend to monitor use of the habitat by fish and wildlife as a way of evaluating our management. We intend to work outside our boundaries as partners in restoring habitats on private lands and better managing our conservation easements. Basically, this is an adjustment of our efforts within our boundaries and an expansion of our efforts outside our boundaries.
We intend to continue past programs and make more of the Refuge available for wildlife observation through trails and an auto tour route. We intend to provide sites for bank fishing. We also intend to increase the feeling of security among our visitors through an increased law enforcement presence.
We intend to expand our environmental education and outreach programs. The General Motors settlement will permit an expanded environmental education program at Green Point Environmental Learning Center, and public support for the Great Lakes Discovery Center at Bridgeport will allow us to introduce the Refuge, the Service and its partners to more people.
We are excited about the potential for the next 15 years.
Given the rate of natural succession and land use changes, we are not likely to see the completion of the Refuge in 15 years. All of the land within the authorized boundaries will probably not be in public ownership in 15 years, and all of the land will probably not be converted from its current use to the desired habitat.
As we acquire land and move toward our long-term vision of the landscape, we will likely move through stages in our management of habitats. For instance, some of the higher, drier areas that in the long run are envisioned to be grasslands may be farmed in the near-term to maintain them free of brush and noxious weeds until they can be converted and managed as grasslands.
Following the rationale of Schroeder, King, and Cornely (1998), we have chosen to base the Refuge's core management direction on habitat objectives. Schroeder et al. reason that many factors affect wildlife populations and many of these factors are outside the control of a refuge manager. However, a refuge manager can work to provide a high quality habitat, which is necessary for an abundant wildlife population. Schroeder, King, and Cornely argue that it is logical "to focus on the habitat conditions required to provide the greatest potential for the species or resource of concern."
The primary thrust of habitat management at the Refuge has been to provide diverse habitats to meet a variety of species requirements. We plan to continue to provide diverse habitats, which are defined more specifically in the habitat objectives listed in the CCP. Click here to see a map (322KB) illustrating our long-term vision for Refuge habitat.
Green Point Environmental Learning Center will remain the focal point for all Refuge environmental education activities. Green Point has the advantage of being easily accessible to the urban Saginaw schools. Because some educational activities are best done nearer the Refuge core, we intend to reestablish an environmental education site that was destroyed by flood waters over 10 years ago. This site will support field environmental education by providing restrooms, shelter, and tables. School children, youth groups, and educators will continue to be the primary audiences at Green Point, but drop-in visitors will be welcome too.
The Great Lakes Discovery Center will emerge from a unique public/private partnership among the Service, other natural resource agencies, and a variety of non-governmental organizations. The vision of the Great Lakes Discovery Center is to inspire a sense of appreciation and stewardship in the people who interact with the Great Lakes Basin and its natural resources, utilizing the latest technology in a state-of-the-art facility. The partners propose to achieve the vision through an educational facility that blends multi-media technology with a variety of "natural" experiences. The Center and its programs will be designed to make visitors, area residents, school children, and "passers-by" more aware of the impact humans have upon the Great Lakes Basin. The Friends of the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge, a private non-profit organization, has assembled a team of organizations and public agencies that will contribute to the Center. Many of these organizations and agencies will be responsible for creating and delivering environmental displays and learning opportunities at the Discovery Center. They will also use the resources of the Discovery Center as a platform to conduct training and research into environmental issues that impact the Great Lakes Basin.
The Service will possess the "platform" around which the environmental groups will build the specific details and programming. In 1999 the Service purchased 116 acres in Bridgeport Township known as the Warner Tract. This will be the site for the Center. The site lies along the Cass River adjacent to Interstate 75. Bridgeport Charter Township has provided an additional, adjoining 300 acres through a 99-year lease.
The 416-acre site contains a unique upland American beech/white pine forest, bottomland hardwoods, buttonbush marshes, and grasslands that provide habitat for numerous species of wildlife including bald eagles, warblers, beaver, river otter, and white-tailed deer. This unique site borders restaurants, hotels, and service stations.
A visitor entering the Great Lakes Discovery Center will have the opportunity to explore the diversity and inter-connectedness of the various natural systems that compose the Great Lakes Basin. Multi-media technology will transport visitors to remote locations throughout the Great Lakes to visually experience the variety and beauty of the ecosystem. The Center will also provide opportunities for "hands-on" experiences within the facility and on the surrounding lands and streams. Students and teachers from universities throughout the Basin will be able to use the Center for learning and teaching. Visitors to the Center will want to return again and again, in different seasons and to changing exhibits.
The Friends of the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge and their partners have created an exciting vision for a facility that will benefit the residents of Michigan, visitors to the Great Lakes Basin, outdoor enthusiasts, schools, and universities. The Service and Bridgeport Charter Township have provided the platform for the vision, and the site is a part of the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge. The Center will be a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service facility operated jointly by the Service and the partners. Funding for staff, operation, and maintenance will be determined by the Service and the partners when the facility has been planned in detail and construction is imminent.
Our intent is to maintain the Refuge office and maintenance facility in their current location, because of the central location. This approach - environmental education at Green Point, Great Lakes Discovery Center at Bridgeport, and office and maintenance in their present location - takes advantage of existing facilities and makes the most of the opportunity to employ the Bridgeport site to bring an environmental message to a new audience.
The Service has sought to exchange certain lands with the State of Michigan for several years. We intend to continue to pursue the land exchange to better our management and acquire additional habitat for wildlife. We would like to transfer the area in and around Pool 4 to the State of Michigan. In exchange we would like to acquire land of equivalent value on the east side of the Refuge near Highway 13.
Several years ago the bridge across the Shiawassee River became unsafe and was removed. Since that time, farming in the unit known as Pool 4 has ended and it has been difficult for Refuge staff to visit and adequately manage Pool 4. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has managed the hunting and wildlife in the area under a cooperative agreement. In use and management, Pool 4 is more closely associated with the Shiawassee River State Game Area, which is managed by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
Michigan owns land within the authorized expansion area of the Refuge. Because these lands are adjacent to existing Refuge lands and are isolated from other state lands, we believe it makes sense to manage them as part of the Refuge. Wildlife benefits are not expected to decrease and management efficiency is expected to increase as part of the exchange.
Since our Environmental Assessment for the additions to the Refuge was written in 1996, the Refuge System Improvement Act has passed, and that Act and the resulting policy have caused us to re-examine our activities on the Refuge. In addition, in the summer of 1999 Region 3 closely examined the mosquito control policy at Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, a refuge within the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area.
Since 1988, Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge has prohibited treatment of its lands for mosquitoes except in the case of a health emergency. The policy was implemented at Minnesota Valley after the Defenders of Wildlife and other environmental organizations filed a suit against the Service for allowing control of mosquitoes on Refuge lands. An out-of-court settlement was reached after the Service agreed to conduct an environmental review of its program. Following the completion of an environmental assessment and because of potential negative environmental effects, the Service adopted a policy where treatment on Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge could only occur in the case of a human health emergency. Since the policy was adopted, there has not been a human health emergency associated with mosquitoes on the Refuge.
The Improvement Act made it clear that wildlife are first on refuges. The Improvement Act states that "the Secretary shall not ... renew or extend an existing use of a refuge, unless the Secretary has determined that the use is a compatible use and that the use is not inconsistent with public safety. The Secretary may make the determinations referred to in this paragraph for a refuge concurrently with development of a conservation plan ..."
Based on the requirements of the Improvement Act and the experience and evaluation of the program at Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, we have decided to prohibit treatment of refuge lands for mosquitoes except in the event of an emergency when there is a real and imminent threat to human health. We think that eliminating the current mosquito control program is not inconsistent with public safety.
We think the threat of disease is very low. There are three different types of mosquito-borne viruses in Michigan that cause encephalitis in people. All are very rare. Eastern equine encephalitis occurs in counties of southern Lower Michigan. There have been seven human cases in Michigan in the last 20 years. St. Louis encephalitis primarily occurs in the southern United States. The only recorded outbreak in Michigan occurred in 1975, when 93 human cases and three deaths occurred primarily in the metropolitan area of southeastern Lower Michigan. This outbreak was part of a larger epidemic that covered most of the eastern United States. California encephalitis (La Crosse) is very rare in Michigan. Two documented cases have been reported in Michigan since 1980. The mosquito responsible for transmitting the virus is a tree hole and tire-breeding species. The habitat for this mosquito is upland, mature deciduous forest and settings where discarded tires are allowed to accumulate and collect water (Walker, 2000).
The Refuge will continue to cooperate with the Saginaw County Mosquito Abatement Commission in the monitoring of mosquito populations on Refuge lands and in the removal of tires or other debris that serve as artificial breeding sites.
Currently the staff of Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge consists of 10 positions: refuge manager, two refuge operations specialists, administrative technician, wildlife biologist, biological science technician, two park rangers, engineer equipment operator, and tractor operator. The park rangers are stationed at Green Point Environmental Learning Center.
To fully implement and achieve the objectives of this plan, the following additional staff are needed: a receptionist, a seasonal tractor operator, two park rangers, and one full-time and one part-time refuge law enforcement officers.
Currently, a backlog of maintenance needs exists. Under current conditions the needs, which are recorded in the Maintenance Management System, total $3,195,000. These needs, the largest of which are dike, ditch, and road maintenance, will continue under this plan.
The Refuge Operating Needs projects identified in this plan describe new projects and total $6,576,000. These projects are in addition to the base operating budget of the Refuge, which was approximately $500,000 in fiscal year 1999. The projects are prioritized and will be implemented as funding becomes available.
More detailed plans will need to be amended or written to implement the CCP. Plans that need only a slight modification include: water management, hunting, trapping, cropland management, integrated pest management, and fire management. Plans that will require more significant changes include: inventory and monitoring, public use, environmental education and interpretation, fishing, forest management, law enforcement and cultural resources management.
Partnerships with other organizations play an important role in Refuge management. We plan to maintain and foster partnerships with the Shiawassee Flats Advisory Council, The Friends of Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge, The Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem Team, Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network (WIN), the City of Saginaw, and local high schools.
Within the Private Lands Program, we expect to maintain partnerships with 14 Soil and Water Conservation Districts, local Pheasants Forever chapters, Michigan Wildlife Habitat Foundation, Michigan Duck Hunters Association, Great Lakes Regional Office of Ducks Unlimited, Inc., Michigan DNR, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Saginaw Bay WIN, and the Service's State Coordinators Office.
This summary has focused on the management of Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge. The Comprehensive Conservation Plan also discusses our management of special management areas known as Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program and Farm Services Administration Conservation Easements. The Plan also discusses the management of the Michigan Wetland Management District, which is a closely related administrative unit managed by the Michigan Private Lands Office in East Lansing.