RiparianRiparian areas of the refuge occupy a relatively small part of the landscape, but wildlife use these areas more than any other habitat type. Historically beaver were a dominant feature in parts of the riparian and bottomland areas of the refuge. Trapping in the area that is now the refuge probably started in the mid 1800’s and beaver populations were greatly impacted over the next 50 years. As their numbers increase, beaver dams and their impact on retaining water help shape the refuge lower small stream riparian areas as well as the lowland wetland mosaic.
Most of the riparian streams are intermittent. Off refuge stream impoundments have impacted some stream flows especially during drier years. Dominant trees include cottonwood, willow, green ash and buffalo berry. Bird use of riparian areas, especially in years with water is amazing. Riparian areas provide crucial habitat for prairie bats and several species of bats use the stream corridors for roosting and feeding.
River CorridorAlong with the smaller riparian areas that flow into the Missouri River, the Missouri River corridor itself is extremely valuable to wildlife. Vegetation along the Missouri River corridor is a mosaic of plant communities. Forests of cottonwood and willow, shrubby areas of greasewood and sage are commonly found. Some areas have a shrubby understory (Wood’s rose is a common understory plant) while others have a grassy/forb understory. Some areas of the river corridor are full of bird life while others only have a few species. Riparian areas do provide crucial habitat for prairie bats and several species of bats use the river corridor for roosting and feeding: Townsend’s Big-eared bat, big-brown bat, hoary bat, silver-haired bat, small-footed myotis, long-eared myotis, spotted bat, eastern red bat, fringed myotis, Yuma myotis and long-legged myotis.
ShorelineThe nearly 1,520 miles of shoreline along Fort Peck Lake constantly changes due to fluctuating lake levels. The Corps of Engineers has primary jurisdiction for the management of the lakeshore areas. Nevertheless, this dynamic habitat is important to wildlife and species such as piping plovers and least terns are totally dependent on the shoreline for nesting and food.
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The refuge was named in recognition of this colorful western artist who often portrayed the refuge’s landscape in his paintings and whose conservation ethic was years ahead of his time.