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Habitat Management

Fire Management

Prescribed Burning 

The Willamette Valley National Wildlife Refuge Complex (NWRC) has an active prescribed burning program. The objectives of these burns are to restore and maintain native prairies and oak savannas, enhance populations of threatened and endangered species, improve food crops for Canada geese, and reduce the risks for severe wildfire. Most burning takes place in the late summer or early fall.

Agricultural lands

Through cooperative agreements with local farmers, refuge fields are planted to grow ryegrass, fescue, corn and pasture mixes. These crops are the preferred food for wintering Canada geese. During the winter months thousands of geese feed on the crops planted by farmers. These farming operations help reduce off-refuge crop damage by migratory birds. Learn More... 

Weed Control

Control of non-native, invasive weeds is an important management operation. Weeds present the single most significant threat to native plant communities and rare species. The refuge uses a combination of mowing, burning, slashing, hand pulling and herbicides to keep weeds in check.

Prairie Restoration

Throughout the refuges, former croplands are in different stages of being restored to native habitats. This process, which takes a number of years, includes clean-up of the fields of weeds and residual crops, site preparation for planting of native species and maintenance of the developing habitats.

The refuges are actively restoring both wetland and upland prairies and are working to enhance existing prairies that have been invaded by shrubs and small trees. The woody vegetation is cut and piled off-site where it is burned. Most treatment areas are selected to provide benefits to threatened and endangered plant species.

Water Management

Seasonally flooded wetlands require continual management to produce plants favored by waterfowl and other water-birds. Water levels are usually “stage-flooded” in the fall and winter using water control structures that allow variable levels. This helps maximize the food availability for migrating waterfowl. Managed levels are also important in the spring to prevent the establishment of undesirable non-native plants, like reed canary-grass. In the summer, most managed impoundments are dry, a natural cycle that native plants have adapted to.

Oak Habitat Restoration

The suppression of fire following European settlement in the Willamette Valley has dramatically altered oak woodlands and savanna. The refuge complex is selectively restoring these areas by removing invading Douglas fir trees that will eventually overtop and shade out the oaks. In addition, oak trees and shrubs are thinned in order to maintain an open grassland understory. Management of these sites is accomplished in concert with adjacent prairie habitats and benefits rare species. 

Page Photo Credits — Collaboration on a Finley NWR Burn, Jona Ensley/USFWS
Last Updated: Aug 28, 2014
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