on the Salt Flats
most productive area in which the selenite crystals are found
has been divided into sections. Each section is used on a
rotating basis to allow time for crystal growth replacement.
It is also important to restrict crystal digging to particular
sections because many bird species use the area for nesting
purposes. Among these species are snowy plovers, endangered
interior least terns, and American avocets.
Snowy plovers can be found throughout the
crystal digging area. Interior least terns and American
avocets are mostly seen along the streams. The birds will
use the dig holes and consume the brine flies that hatch
in the water in the dig holes after you have left the site.
It is important that these birds not be
disturbed. Furthermore, it is illegal to harass or destroy
the bird's eggs and nests.
For the pleasure of viewing wildlife, an observation tower
is located at the entrance of the selenite crystal digging
area. The tower is open year round from sunrise to sunset.
During fall months, white pelicans and sandhill cranes can
be seen in the area, also an occasional whooping crane may
be sighted. In winter, several thousand geese can often be
seen along the lake shoreline.
for Crystals as a Compatible Use on a Wildlife Refuge
use on the refuge has to be evaluated in terms of it being
compatible with the mission of the refuge. Salt Plains is
an important stop-over and breeding area for migratory waterfowl
and other birds. We seek to provide optimum habitat for
them along their routes and during nesting season.
of our importance to wildlife, recreation on the salt flats
is limited to April 1 to October 15. These dates are generally
accepted as allowing the public to enjoy the flats while
limiting disturbance to whooping cranes and other wildlife.
In addition, digging for crystals has been found compatible
with our mission because old mounds from past dig seasons
have been found being used as elevated nesting platforms.
mounds give shorebirds a place to nest above the floodplain
during the rainy seasons and increases their nest success.
Nesting beside the mounds can offer the eggs shade from
the hot sun.
July 30, 2007
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