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Frequently Asked Questions

Visitors watching wildlife

What is a Wetland Management District?

A Wetland Management District or WMD is a division of organization within the USFWS to help manage resources. WMD’s are only found in the Prairie Pothole Region where we mostly manage migrating and breeding waterfowl and is part of our Small Wetlands Program. The USFWS manages small tracts of lands called Waterfowl Production Areas as well as usually larger tracts such as National Wildlife Refuges and may also help promote wildlife on private lands through easements or Partners for Fish and Wildlife programs. Instead of having specific staff and offices for each tract of land, of which there are often dozens per county, or even an office and staff for every county, the USFWS groups areas together usually based by county lines and will manage all resources for that grouped area out of one office and it is called a wetland management district. For example the Windom Wetland Management District covers 12 counties in SW MN. We manage all federal lands, easements and private land projects in all 12 counties out of one office centrally located in Windom, MN. This results in a more efficient use of staff and resources.

What is the difference between the USFWS and other conservation and land management agencies such as the DNR?

There are many other branches of government at federal, state and local levels that also do conservation or wildlife related work. In many areas they overlap duties but usually are separated due to specific origins or jurisdiction. For instance the two most commonly confused agencies are the DNR and the USFWS which in many areas duties are similar but the USFWS manages federal resources and lands where as the DNR is a state agency and manages state owned resources. In this case the USFWS such as our office has jurisdiction to manage federal land and migratory animals that cross state and international boundaries such as waterfowl and migratory song birds. The state DNR upholds state laws relating to migratory animals while they are in the state but they also manage resident non-migratory animals such as deer, pheasants and local fish which federal agencies can not cover. Another distinction between the USFWS and some agencies is the USFWS generally has a priority to put the needs of the wildlife first and other benefits such as public use, recreation and agriculture commodity issues secondary. This is a little reversed from programs like the USDA FSA has which often have many great conservation benefits but the primary goal is managing agriculture or the National Park Service which has stronger emphasis on visitor service than the USFWS does.

What is the difference between a WPA, NWR and easements?

A WPA or “Waterfowl Production Area”, as the name implies, has a primary role of breeding ground for waterfowl. The focus is generally as much open grassland as possible interspersed with shallow wetlands. Ducks use the shallow wetlands as breeding ponds and food source and they nest in the grassland. WPA’s are purchased with funds from duck stamps that you buy in order to go hunting as well as some taxes on imported ammunition and firearms. Occasionally WPA’s are also acquired through partnerships with groups like Pheasants Forever, Ducks Unlimited and others as well as through some grants and donations. WPA’s, in all but rare circumstances, are open to public hunting.

National Wildlife Refuges (NWR) are also federally owned land within the USFWS. The major difference is the primary purpose of a NWR is, as the name implies, a safe haven for wildlife which by nature means they are often closed to hunting or hunting is much more tightly regulated when it is allowed. In this part of the country the major focus of NWR’s is on waterfowl but in some areas they may also be placed to protect other critical habitats less related to waterfowl. Many NWR’s in the upper Midwest provide nesting opportunities like WPA’s but generally they may also have bigger water bodies than WPA’s. Many NWR’s serve a primary role as stop over points for waterfowl during migration thus water must be available during spring and fall migrations. Smaller wetlands found on many WPA’s are often great for spring and summer breeding season but may be dry or too small to support large flocks during the fall migration. Many NWR’s are positioned at key spots along migration routes such as the Mississippi river which waterfowl will go from one to another in their journey from summer breeding grounds in the north to winter roots in the south and back again.

The USFWS also has easements in many areas. An easement is privately owned land that the government purchases certain management rights to. There are several types of easements. Wetland easements protect, only the wetlands from being drained, filled in or otherwise damaged. Grassland easements protect the grass from being tilled or developed and may also control activities such as haying, mowing, burning, grazing or seed harvest depending on the level of restriction. Flowage easements are often used adjacent to federal land where restoring or managing a wetland means water will also occasionally flow across or flood neighboring private property. In almost all easements the remaining rights to the property such as access, hunting and management rights are retained by the landowner. There are a few more rare easements called refuge easements that protect a larger water body or impoundment on private property and prevent hunting by anyone on that property which acts as a privately owned national wildlife refuge. Easements are normally purchased with a one time payment based on a designated proportion of the current market value of the land and are most often perpetual so they will never expire regardless of any change of ownership with the property. Funds used to purchase these easements are normally the revenue from Duck Stamp sales as well as some grants and donations.

How does the USFWS acquire, pay for and fund maintenance on federal land and does USFWS pay taxes for the land?

Land is most often acquired on the open market just as private landowners would acquire land. Either land comes up for sale on it's own, a landowner may approach us for sale of the property or in some cases we pursue and inquire on a sale of a parcel if it is highly desirable for wildlife habitat. Biologist or other refuge staff review potential wildlife values of a property and if it is desirable for goals of the refuge system in that area then the recommendation to purchase is sent to our realty staff. Realty does an appraisal to determine fair market value based on other comparable land sales in the area and determines a price based on standard criteria. The price offered is strictly based on the appraisal vale and is non-negotiable. If the amount offered is not acceptable by the landowner the sale will either fall through or in some cases a partner such as a local conservation club or sportsman group may offer financial assistance to make up the difference but federal funds can not be bartered with. The source of funding to purchase new land can come from Federal Duck Stamp sales, congressionally appropriated dollars, taxes on the import of firearms and ammunition, state, federal and private grants and donations from private individuals, companies, non-profit groups or clubs. Once land is owned it would take an act of congress to release that land from public domain so land is almost never sold, however in rare circumstances parcels have been traded when currently owned land no longer has a wildlife benefit due to situations like development and another parcel of equal or greater wildlife value is available. Funding for maintenance such as weed control comes from annual operating budgets of the district or refuge which is delegated through the regions and USFWS Washington D.C. office from the annual federal budget recommended by the president and passed by congress. USFWS operational budget is relatively small forcing us to be very efficient compared to some other branches of government. The federal government does not pay taxes directly which may be a loss to the local tax base, however in its place is a system called Refuge Revenue sharing which can make a payment in lieu of taxes. For more information on Refuge Revenue Sharing or any other questions about Realty and acquisitions please follow this link.

How can I help wildlife on my property or in my area?

The most important thing is to educate yourself on what are good and bad things for wildlife in your area and what things limit their success. For large projects such as if you have a drained or degraded wetland on your property or a marginal piece of cropland you would like to retire and convert to grass there are programs such as the Partners for Fish and Wildlife as well as others that may help you. Contact your local PFW office to inquire. Smaller scale things may include building nesting structures, bird feeders or other such structures depending on your goals and what species you are looking to attract. If you have a large yard such as a 10 acre farmstead consider only mowing the areas near your house and leaving tall grass in other areas for wildlife. Remove trees if you want to benefit grassland species. Leave buffers of undisturbed areas between lawns or farm ground and waterways, streams, rivers, lakes and wetlands. Purchase a duck stamp annually regardless of if you hunt or not because that revenue is used to buy land for wildlife habitat. Join and contribute to private organizations such as Ducks Unlimited or The Nature Conservancy and others who work as great partners with federal and state agencies to benefit wildlife. You can be members of these groups even if you don’t hunt because their actions help wildlife including non-game species. Take your kids out camping, hunting, fishing, hiking, bird watching or any other outdoor activity where they can learn to appreciate nature and pass on the legacy. The majority of Americans live in large urban cities and many never leave pavement or see anything more than a city lawn or city park for exposure to the outdoors yet these same Americans are the one’s that will have a vote when issues relating to conservation and wildlife come up. MN has had once such vote in recent years which state residence showed their tradition of conservation in the state by passing a new tax which has already started to help do great things for conservation in the state.

How does the USFWS make its management decisions?

The USFWS is a federal government agency therefore it receives its general direction from the laws and policies put forth from congressional, executive and judicial branches. Specifically we are organized under the Department of the Interior. The USFWS has several branches of which the Windom WMD is part of the National Wildlife Refuge System. Our direction and policies are broken down from highest levels of government to be specific to the needs at a local level as it sorts through the branches and regions until it reaches our office. The general goal of our district office is to manage migratory wildlife and endangered species through protecting, enhancing and maintaining the habitat they need. How we go about making those management decisions on a local level has to be flexible for every office since habitat needs are very dynamic. The theme that does remain the same no matter what office you may be in is the use of sound science to support management decisions. The USFWS prides itself on being science based in all levels of the organization. Most employees have a minimum of a B. S. degree in Wildlife Management, Fish and Wildlife Biology or other similar field with increasingly more graduate level education in Biologist and Management series positions. We make decisions based on proven wildlife management methods and constantly monitor our own actions using standard scientific methods as well as consult research from other agencies, organizations and institutions to adapt to conditions as needed. Our direction is guided by Our Mission, Our Vision, Our Conservation Principles and our Priorities

Our Mission Statement: The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.

Our Vision Statement: We will continue to be a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service.

Our Conservation Principles:
Science - Our work is grounded in thorough, objective science.
Stewardship - Our ethic is to conserve natural resources for future generations.
Service - It is our privilege to serve the American people.
Professionalism - We hold ourselves to the highest ethical standards, strive for excellence and respect others.
People - Our employees are our most valued asset.
Legacy - We ensure the future of conservation by connecting people with nature.

Our Priorities:
National Wildlife Refuge System - Conserving our Lands and Resources
Landscape Conservation - Working with Others
Migratory Birds - Conservation and Management
Threatened and Endangered Species - Achieving Recovery and Preventing Extinction
Aquatic Resources - National Fish Habitat Action Plan and Trust Species
Connecting People with Nature - Ensuring the Future of Conservation

Why does the Windom Wetland Management District cut down trees on the prairie?

Cutting down trees may be one of the most misunderstood issues that we deal with. From when we were children we were always taught that trees were good and many people at some point during their school years were given a tree to plant in their yard. In many circumstances trees are good. However as a federal wildlife agency we are mandated to conserve and protect wildlife and their habitats in as much of a natural state as possible. In some parts of the country this may mean restoring forests, parklands and other critical habitats by planting trees. In the prairie such as where we live it means removing trees. Historical accounts by early explorers such as Lewis and Clark and others describe the Great Plains and the Prairie Pothole Region as a beautiful expanse of grass and rolling hills as far as the eye can see. The area we live was once a tall grass prairie which was described like waves on an ocean as wind blew across the 5 foot tall grasses. Those grasses were what developed the deep rich fertile soil that makes the area good for growing crops today. Trees were very rare with even most streams and rivers bald. The animals that evolved on the prairie were well adapted to not having trees. In current times many native grassland birds will avoid nesting near trees. Multiple studies have reported nesting success is lower near trees for native grassland birds. Trees serve as a focal point for land and air predators. Raptors like eagles, hawks and owls will perch in trees and use that as a vantage point to spot prey thus areas below the tree are hit harder than areas on open prairies. Skunks, raccoons and other mammalian predators tend to congregate near tree corridors and will seek food such as bird eggs and young which lowers the breeding success of the prey animals in those areas. Trees invite other species that are not native to the prairies in which also gives more competition for food and nesting space as well as opportunities for nest parasitism like with the brown-headed cowbird. Many people believe trees are needed for deer and pheasant populations. Deer evolved on the prairies and are very well adapted to using tall grass as cover along with thick vegetation such as cattail and reeds in wetlands during the winter. Deer are opportunistic and may use trees when available but are most definitely not dependant on them. Chinese Ring-necked Pheasants, as the name implies, are an exotic species imported for use as a game bird therefore the USFWS doesn't manage to benefit invasive species directly. For those that do manage for pheasants, research has shown that trees are also of little use to pheasants. Trees can concentrate pheasants which hunters like because it is easier to kill them and trees have shown to be a benefit in the most severe winters which trees may be the last refuge but in these cases the population is usually decimated anyway. Native low shrubs and bushes will provide a greater benefit to both pheasants and deer than trees and these low woody components like buck brush and snowberry were a natural component in many parts of the prairie.

In modern day trees may still have an appropriate place in our new prairie system. We will never get back to seemingly endless prairie so we must concede to a new landscape compatible to agriculture, human dwellings and what prairie remains. Trees were planted in shelter belts during the dust-bowl era to stop wind erosion between fields which still can be an appropriate use although farmers have become increasingly better stewards of the land using other erosion reduction practices such as low or no till farming, buffer strips and other methods that reduce the need for trees. Most rural farmsteads have a tree row around them to provide protection against the wind and snow as well as privacy which again may be an appropriate use of trees as long as it is confined to the proximity of the farm or home site. Similarly trees in an urban setting provide shade, shelter and landscaping which people enjoy. Trees have become a major part of river and stream corridors and can help protect against further erosion of the banks so forested riverine systems are okay as well. As wildlife managers we would encourage landowners and other agency land managers to exclude and remove trees from all other areas, especially grasslands for wildlife. If you feel strongly about planting something to bring in deer and pheasants to your area consider low native shrubs or bushes and plant them in small patches leaving larger open areas for grassland. For more information and cited research see this fact sheet.

Why doesn’t the Windom WMD have more food plots on their WPA’s?

Wildlife Management is about evaluating the needs of wildlife and attempting to make up for the weaknesses in the system which are called limiting factors. Food plots are an attempt to grow a crop that is left for animals. This is well intentioned; however in this region food is not a limiting factor. Habitat such as grassland is much more limiting so as wildlife managers we would prefer to see grass instead of food plots. Most grassland in this area is surrounded by agricultural crops which animals will feed from the residue left over after the harvest. Food plots within grassland require disturbing the soil which can often lead to weed issues that will spread into the grass. The plot also fragments the grassland reducing available nesting cover for birds and other animals. When animals are concentrated in a small area such as gathering at a food plot they are more likely to spread diseases to each other and reduce heard health. The USFWS prefers to provide the natural components wildlife needs to survive rather than artificial supplements. You may occasionally see a food plot on a WPA which are there due to a prior agreement from when the land was purchased. For example, groups like Pheasants Forever often assist with purchasing land which they then donate to the USFWS or DNR but as part of their policy they believe in the use of food plots and form an agreement that we will keep it for awhile after the transfer. As these agreements expire the USFWS will convert the plot to grass. If you have a food plot you would like help planting back to grassland we have programs that may be able to help you. If you would like to leave food for wildlife we would encourage agricultural producers to leave a small amount such as part of a row or two of corn or other crop from a regularly harvested field adjacent to the grass instead of a dedicated plot within a grassland.

Why doesn’t the USFWS have programs to directly manage pheasant populations?

Chinese Ring-necked Pheasants, as the name implies, are an exotic species imported for use as a game bird therefore the USFWS doesn’t manage their lands to benefit invasive species directly. Occasionally non-native species like the pheasant can compete against native species like grouse or prairie chickens for food and space. Another reason is due to the non-migratory nature of these birds they do not directly fall within the jurisdiction of our management. We manage for native migratory animals such as ducks, geese and songbirds. The state DNR has jurisdiction for managing resident animals such as deer, pheasants and local fish. Although we do not directly manage habitat to benefit pheasants we indirectly help them by providing habitat that is good for waterfowl or other grassland birds which pheasants also use. Federal WPA’s are open to public hunting which is primarily designed for waterfowl but sportsman get the benefit of being able to hunt for upland birds like pheasants on that property as well.

Why does the USFWS periodically burn their grasslands?

Fire is a very natural part of prairie management. Prairie grasses evolved with fire as part of their existence. Fire along with grazing from bison are the two natural components that kept native grasslands healthy. Native grasses in this area were generally 3 to as high as 6 feet in height which provided great cover for wildlife. However, this much plant material can build up over time. Passing herds of grazing ungulates such as bison would eat some of the grass and hoof action would grind down much of the residue. Even with the help of these animals a build up of plant litter called duff would accumulate, smothering the soil. Most plant seeds need direct contact with the soil to grow but seeds can get caught up in the duff layer and not germinate. Natural fires caused by lightning or some set by Native Americas would routinely sweep over the plains being driven by wind and covering miles until they reached a natural fire break such as a river or stream or put out by rain or other weather conditions. These fires rejuvenated the prairie, removing the duff, triggering natural processes within plants and seeds which help them grow. The blackened ground often warmed faster which was more suitable to the native warm season grasses that dominated the prairie in this region.

Today we rarely have natural fires and when we do we are quick to put them out due to the risk of damaging homes and property. Therefore as land managers we must simulate these natural processes by setting controlled fires. The “prescribed” fires help to stimulate the grass by removing excess litter and encourage new growth as it has for centuries, however fire is also a management tool to combat invasive plants as well. In contrast to the virgin prairies of years ago we now battle many introduced and non-native weeds and other plants that were never an issue on prairies before modern times. Cool season grasses such as smooth brome and Kentucky bluegrass are not native to this area but are found prolifically in almost every grassland today. In many areas these were planted for lawns or in pasture mixes for grazing cattle and have expanded on their own. The problem is these invasive grasses start growing earlier than most of the native warm season grasses which require a little warmer soils before they germinate in the spring as well as they have growth patterns that form thick sod which out competes the natives. These cool season grasses also do not provide nearly as good of structure and cover which is very important to nesting waterfowl and other animals. In order to compete with these cool season grasses, managers often use fire to burn just as the brome and bluegrass is getting started. This kills off much of invasive grass and with the blackened soil left behind the warm season native grasses have a better opportunity to grow and get established. Burning will also help reduce small trees that get started on a prairie and are also not a welcome part of this habitat. Burning grassland is regularly used in native seed harvest situations. Newly burned prairies often have robust plants that produce seed well and burning reduces weeds in the harvest. Grassland will be burned in the spring which kills off the existing weeds. Since most of the major weeds we deal with have a two season life where they grow and get established the first year and then produce seed in the second year then by eliminating weeds in the spring any new plants that start that year will not produce any seed before the grassland is harvested for seed that same summer or fall. High quality seed harvest results in high quality native prairie restorations on new sites. Prescribed burning is also used to reduce the amount of hazardous fuels so if a wildfire would get started it would be easier to control with less built up fuel to burn.

Burning obviously has many benefits for the grassland but some are concerned with wildlife using the grass. Most of the native wildlife in the area has evolved in the grassland ecosystem with fire so wildlife is adapted to escape with little or no harm. They may run away, fly or use underground burrows during a fire. Grass fires also burn relatively fast over an area so temperatures at or slightly below the soil surface do not get hot enough to kill many of the insects which can normally fly or escape into shallow cracks or holes in the ground or into wetland edges where it will not burn. Some birds may nest early and in some cases nests are destroyed by fire while at other times the fire will burn right over it and leave the eggs untouched. For those that are destroyed birds have the ability to re-nest and still produce offspring. Hen waterfowl are philopatric which means they return to the place of their birth to nest so a hen that had a failed nest due to fire or any other reason won’t move far to try again. Fire often leaves a patchwork of unburned clumps of grass so some animals will return immediately to the burned area after the fire and use the remaining grass. In situations where there is very little alternative habitat for wildlife to use such as a small island of grass surrounded by all cropland for miles it is our policy to only burn a portion of the unit and leave the rest for another year. There will inevitably be some short term impacts on wildlife when habitat is burned but the positive benefits for long term success outweigh the temporary disturbance. Numerous studies have documented grassland bird response to burning and almost every case reflects equal or greater population numbers in years following a burn.

What type of wetland is good for ducks?

There are several types of wetlands and each type has their own use for ducks during different times of year. In the spring migration flocks of ducks tend to use large shallow lakes or wetlands such as Heron Lake in SW MN. These large bodies of water provide protection from land predators and the shallow water will have submergent vegetation that ducks can feed on. As ducks reach their breeding ground they look for small shallow wetlands often called pair ponds. These are often very temporary wetlands that only hold water during the spring snow melt and dry up shortly after the frost is out of the ground. These wetlands often are the first with open water in the spring and will usually be the first to have insects hatch which are a great protein source to recover from the migration effort and build up energy for hens to produce eggs. Many duck species such as mallards are territorial within species during breeding so they will exclude any other mallard pairs from the pond they are on which is why it is important to have many of these small ponds in breeding areas. In good breeding habitat it is better to have 10 one acre ponds than one 10 acre pond. You may see another species pair sharing the same space but unless there are visual barriers such as reeds or cattails many ducks don’t like to share. After breeding, hens will build a nest and lay their eggs in the grassland. When they hatch the hen will lead her young to water which must be within a reasonable distance, generally within a couple miles at most. The young are precocial which means the mother may stay close but she doesn’t feed them so ducklings find their own food. For this they need a wetland that is shallow enough for the ducks to feed on insects and vegetation in the shallow water. It must have good cover such as cattails or reeds to hide from predators and must hold water through the majority of the summer. Young ducklings cannot fly and adults molt and grow new feathers during midsummer during which they are flightless as well so if a wetland dries up adults and young would have to walk to the next closest wetland. By fall ducks can fly again and their diet switches more to vegetation such as left over grain in agricultural areas. They will start to congregate together in larger flocks and will therefore need larger wetlands with open water to roost on and will fly to nearby fields to feed. During the winter months ducks will stay in larger groups and congregate in large marshes, flooded timber and swamps and often feed in flooded rice fields to build up fat reserves for the next migration.

Why does the Windom District have less wetlands than other parts of the Prairie Pothole Region?

ND, SD and SW MN as well as Northern IA all have the same geologic history of glaciations which left behind the numerous potholes which gives the region its name of the Prairie Pothole Region. All of the PPR once looked quite similar. SW MN has had a longer tradition of intensive agriculture than most of the Dakotas. Land value in many areas of the Windom District are 5X the value of ag land in North Dakota therefore drainage of wetlands has become more profitable in MN and can outweigh the installation cost. This is especially true of tile drainage which has been going on in MN for nearly a century but is still relatively rare in the Dakotas. Tile drainage is very efficient at draining wetlands and therefore increasing crop production which is why producers do it. Wetlands have still been intensively drained in many parts of the Dakotas but have largely been cheaper surface ditches which often do not completely drain the wetland and surface ditches do not remove the ground water so many wetlands that are drained still partially function and will support growth of wetland vegetation like cattail and reeds providing al least some cover for wildlife. Tile drained wetlands often have no visual trace of there ever being a wetland other than a depression in the landscape and sometimes a little ponding water before the ground thaws in the spring. The hardest impacted wetlands are the temporary and seasonal wetlands that may only hold water during the spring or summer and are almost always dry by fall. Many people do not even know these are actual wetlands and serve a vital role for wildlife.

What determines the number of ducks in our area?

In the Windom District our highest densities of breeding waterfowl may be around 30 breeding pairs per square mile when in parts of the Dakotas they may have densities of greater than 100 pairs per mile. This is a complicated question with many factors but mostly comes down to availability and quality of habitat. During spring and fall migrations the amount of ducks in the area are largely dependent on geographic location in relation to major flyways. On a ducks trip from north to south and back they generally follow specific corridors where they have large areas of food and shelter during their stops such as along the Mississippi River. Waterfowl you see during the rest of the season that breed in the area must have quality breeding habitat to attract them including a lot of suitable wetlands and large blocks of grasslands both of which are comparably low in the Windom district. Although some areas may attract birds to breed it doesn’t necessarily mean they will be successful and populations will grow. In the Windom district our biggest limitations to nest survival are habitat fragmentation and related predation. Smaller blocks of habitat like often seen in our area mean nest predators such as raccoons and skunks as well as avian predators such as hawks and owls can concentrate their efforts and find prey easier. Some research suggests ideal size for grassland nesting birds may greater than 1 square mile which is rarely seen in SW MN. Waterfowl do respond to drastic changes in habitat such as major loss of wetlands due to drought or drainage but changes of where ducks nest on a large scale can also largely be generational opposed to individual choice. Hen ducks are philopatric which means they return to the same area to nest as they were born. It may not be the exact location but generally within the geographic area so a duck born on Wolf Lake near Windom will probably be seen returning to breed within a county or two. Therefore if a hen nests and few or none of her offspring survive she may still not move 100’s of miles away the next year but could return to the same area try and possibly fail again the next year. Therefore that individual duck may remain local but because she is producing few or no young it is not increasing or replacing the population in that area. In areas that hens nest successfully and offspring survive to adults then those young with grow and return to that successful area and sustain or grow the population in that area.

Where can I look for more information on wildlife management and biology?

Information is everywhere but you must be caution about the sources to get quality. Professional wildlife managers with the USFWS or DNR can be excellent resources for specific questions on how or why they do certain management tasks or they can point you to their sources of information. There is also a lot of information online and in various columns in newsletters, magazines or newspapers that can give you information. Many of these articles are based on relevant information but personal opinion is often interjected which can obscure facts thus readers should use critical thinking to separate opinion from fact. Writers sharing their personal observations don’t always explain underlying facts or give the whole picture. Biologists and other wildlife professionals will most often use scientific peer reviewed and published resources which are intensely reviewed before being allowed to be published. These are most often produced directly from field biologists conducting studies or research institutions and universities. Creditable information is published in journals such as “The Journal of Wildlife Management” or many other similar scientific journals. Your local library can be an excellent resource for accessing this type of information. There are creditable online sources as well but again you must differentiate between a site that is developed by a person or company for entertainment, selling a product or their personal opinion and observations. Writers that cite their information from a peer reviewed source give more credibility to their articles. Normally sites from research institutions and government agencies are held to higher standards for content and peer review. An excellent online library of information for prairie ecosystems and management is Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center based out of Jamestown, North Dakota. They gather creditable data from many sources as well as do a lot of their own research in the Prairie Pothole Regions which is relevant to our area.

How can I get a job with the USFWS?

All hiring and job posting is done through an online service used by most of the federal government called USA Jobs and other general information is found here.  Each type of job has specific education and/or experience requirements that will be listed in the job posting. Experience is very important especially in the higher job series such as refuge managers and biologists. The field is very competitive so education is also very important to get into entry level jobs. Almost all positions except maintenance, equipment operators and office administration types of roles will require a minimum of a B. S. degree in a biology, ecology or wildlife related field and a higher degree such as a M. S. degree may help qualify you for a mid level position or substitute some of the job experience. New people to the field should start on seasonal employment or even volunteer work as early in their career or education as possible and utilize summer vacations to work in their field as opposed to non-related employment such as retail or food service. Most seasonal employment is also posted online but some special programs for hiring students during their summers off are available which you can inquire directly at the office you wish to work at to see what they have available.

More Questions? Please Contact Us!

Last Updated: Nov 23, 2012
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