Refuge staff use a variety of management practices to maintain, develop, or restore diverse wildlife habitats.
When the Refuge was established in 1937, a system of dikes and water control structures was created to restore more than 25,000 acres of prairie wetlands which were drained in the early 1900s. Since Refuge establishment, 26 pools have been created which range in size from 100 to 10,000 acres. Water management creates a variety of wetland types with a mix of emergent (above the water) and submergent (below the water) plant communities. Refuge staff manipulate water levels to create different stages of marsh habitat. The presence or absence of water, water depth, and seasonal timing can be changed to create different habitat conditions. Pools are periodically de-watered to mimic what the dynamic nature of natural prairie wetlands. Even in a “drawdown” condition, pools provide important habitat for certain birdlife. Exposed mudflats are a magnet for a diversity of migrant shorebird species and sandhill cranes. Reflooding of dry wetland basins results in a dramatic spike in wetland productivity (e.g., plant and insect diversity) and is an important part of a healthy prairie wetland ecosystem.Prescribed Fire: Natural and man-made peat fires formed many of the smaller wetland basins scattered throughout the Refuge. Properly timed prescribed fire, in association with mowing, grazing, and/or chemical treatments, is a critical tool for maintaining diverse wetland and upland plant communities. Without fire and other disturbance (e.g., large ungulate grazing), wetlands degrade to monotypic stands of exotic and hybrid cattail and grasslands and sedge meadows become overrun with willow and aspen. Ultimately, wildlife habitat value declines in both cases, as does the ability for natural ecosystem processes to occur as they did historically. WildernessIn 1976, 4,000 acres in the north-central portion of the Refuge was designated as “Wilderness” and is managed under the National Wilderness Preservation System. Agassiz’s Wilderness contains one of the most westerly extensions of black spruce-tamarack bog in Minnesota. It is one of only three Wilderness Areas in the state. Two lakes in this area, Whiskey and Kuriko, were formed by deep peat fires which occurred prior to Euro-settlement of the area.
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Moose have roamed Agassiz Refuge for decades. In recent years moose have dramatically declined. Researchers say the decline may be as a result of disease, parasites, a warming climate or some combination of all three.