||USFWS employee manages habitat. Photo Credit: USFWS
Management tools used on the refuge include farming, prescribed burning, exotic
plant control, moist soil management, and water level manipulation.
Bosque del Apache NWR cooperates with local farmers to grow crops for wintering
waterfowl and cranes. Farmers plant alfalfa and corn, harvesting the alfalfa
and leaving the corn for wildlife. The refuge staff grows corn, winter wheat,
clover, and native plants as additional food.
Lowering water levels in marshes to create moist fields promotes growth of
native marsh plants. Marsh management is rotated so that varied habitats are
always available. Dry impoundments are disced or burned, then reflooded, to
allow natural marsh plants to grow. When mature marsh conditions are reached,
the cycle is repeated. Wildlife foods grown this way include smartweed, millets,
chufa, bulrush, and sedges.
Many cottonwood and willow bosques that once lined the Rio Grande have been
lost to human developments. Salt cedar or "tamarisk," originally
introduced as an ornamental plant and for erosion control, has taken over
vast areas and has low wildlife value. Salt cedar is being cleared and areas
planted with cottonwood, black willow, and understory plants to restore native
bosques that have higher value for wildlife.
Irrigation canals ensure critical water flow. Daily monitoring, mowing, and
clearing keeps them functioning. Controlling the water enables refuge staff
to manage the habitat.