Restoring and Protecting WetlandsSince the refuge was established in 1982, refuge staff have added more than 20 wetland impoundments. While benefitting all wildlife in the area, the impoundments are primarily habitat for the native fish species and are designed to allow water to flow through them, which is how the historic ciénega of the region functioned.
The water from the impoundments flows through water control structures into Black Draw or Hay Hollow Wash providing additional aquatic habitat by creating permanent sections of a stream. Refuge staff use gabions (a wire basket filled with rocks) to slow down the rate of erosion of the incised channels.
Planting Native TreesRefuge staff plant native tree species, such as cottonwood and willow, along the refuge’s various seeps and channels. The planting of these trees provides shade, which cools the waters and slows evaporation of surface or near surface water. The trees also catch debris and sediment during floods; serve as hiding places for some aquatic species, and homes to others. Insects drop into the wetlands from overhanging branches, providing food for the fish below.
Prescribed BurningSince 1982, the refuge has used prescribed fire to mimic the historic wildfires of the region prior to European settlement. Prescribed burning removes the woody plants that invaded the grasslands when fire was suppressed. It allows native grasses and upland areas to recover for the benefit of native wildlife species. Federal wildland firefighters work closely with refuge management to attain habitat management goals. They monitor weather and fuel conditions to ensure the burns achieve the best results for the habitat.
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The primary role of San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge is to provide recovery for the native fish in the Río Yaqui watershed.