Julia Butler Hansen Refuge
Pacific Region


Habitats  Grasslands 
Water Management  Comprehensive Conservation Plan

Mosaic of Habitats

The refuge actively manages land and water to change the landscape to benefit wildlife, primarily the Columbian White-tailed deer.

The refuge is managed to provide a mosaic of woodland, grassland and wetland habitats. Approximately one quarter of the area is managed for deer forage through haying and grazing. The other three quarters are set aside as woodlands and wetlands.

Woodlands adjacent to managed grasslands are essential to deer because they use them for cover when feeding and to provide shelter for their young fawns. To maintain a mosaic of grasslands and woodlands, refuge managers plant trees and bushes in selected areas. Fencing is needed to protect the tender seedlings from browsing by deer and elk until the woodlots are established.

Trail cameras capture refuge wildlife on Tenasillahe Island. Cameras are used by refuge biologists to estimate population ratios, identify species and better understand wildlife behavior patterns. These photos were part a study to determine if Columbian white-tailed deer use or avoid bridges.


Managed grasslands are especially important to deer nutrition during late summer when grasses seed out and dry up, and in the winter when they provide a nutritious option to woody vegetation. Cattle grazing and haying are used in selected pastures to maintain the short nutritious growth of grass and forbs that deer prefer to eat. Weed control, balancing soil acidity, fertilizing, reseeding and discing are also used in the pastures to provide the most nutritious and natural food for the deer.

Water Management

Water management is key to providing the diverse habitats the deer and other wildlife require. The mainland and Tenasillahe Island Units, which were once tidally flooded, now have dikes protecting them from the Columbia River. Consequently, they stay drier than lands that flood with the tides.

To meet the needs of other wildlife, including a large diversity of water birds, refuge staff also maintain and manage a variety of wetlands. During late fall and winter; increased rainfall fills sloughs and impoundments, creating opportunities for ducks, geese, swans, shorebirds and wading birds to rest and feed. The refuge has enhanced some wetlands by installing water control structures, and removing dense vegetation to create shallow open water wetlands, which also help control flooding from heavy precipitation. A large expulsion pump and tide gates are used to control or remove excess water.

Comprehensive Conservation Planning

Comprehensive Conservation Plans (CCPs) describe the desired future conditions of a refuge and provide long-range guidance and management direction to achieve refuge purposes; help fulfill the National Wildlife Refuge System (Refuge System) mission; maintain and, where appropriate, restore the ecological integrity of each refuge and the Refuge System; help achieve the goals of the National Wilderness Preservation System; and meet other mandates. 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must manage all national wildlife refuges according to an approved CCP. The current Julia Butler Hansen Refuge for the Columbian White-tailed Deer and the Lewis and Clark National Wildlife Refuge CCP was completed in 2010. The CCP will be revised every 15 years, or earlier, if monitoring and evaluation determine that we need changes to achieve planning unit purpose(s), vision, goals, or objectives.

For more specific information on the Julia Butler Hansen NWR CCP please visit our Refuge Planning Website.


Last updated: March 27, 2014