FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 6, 2011
Scott Kahan, 218-847-4431
Wildlife Lands Help Fight Flooding
Many are familiar with the benefits that our wildlife lands provide. National Wildlife Refuges (NWR) and Waterfowl Production Areas (WPA) are managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) for specific purposes- to provide critical habitat for wildlife. Many know the importance of these lands to wildlife, and the benefits these lands provide to people as places to recreate and enjoy. But, did you know that these lands also help alleviate flooding in our region?
Hamden Slough NWR is located just north of Audubon, Minn. This small refuge is well known for an abundance and diversity of wildlife species and people come from across the country to find birds that can only be found here in our Prairie Pothole Region. The Refuge is also serving another role this year-helping to fight flooding.
Hamden Slough NWR Refuge Manager Scott Kahan explained that his staff are actively managing the water on the Refuge to help store flood waters. “Early in March we drew down the water levels to create some storage capacity to capture this spring’s run-off to help reduce flooding. We worked with the Buffalo-Red River Watershed District to decide when it would be best to put in the boards. Those went in yesterday.” Kahan goes on to explain that through intensive wetland restoration, Hamden Slough NWR now provides more than 800 acre-feet of actively managed wetland storage, in addition to the storage available in more than 200 non-managed wetlands. This is only a part of the story.
There are other lands where the USFWS is actively managing water levels in cooperation with local watershed districts. Stinking Lake on the Clay and Becker County line is a project managed cooperatively between the USFWS, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MNDNR) and the Buffalo-Red River Watershed District. This project features 2,460 acre-feet of gated storage and more than 900 acre-feet of temporary storage. Active water management projects, such as these, are just one example of efforts by the USFWS to assist in flood reduction.
Other examples include the flood reduction benefits associated with restored wetlands and grasslands. Restored wetlands provide valuable storage which delay flood waters from reaching already swollen downstream rivers. In addition, highly absorbent wetland soils soak-up and store water in a sponge-like fashion for use by thirsty wetland vegetation. Restored grasslands work in concert with wetlands to slow surface water run-off, increase infiltration and provide vast storage in underground aquifers from which the deep roots of prairie grasses draw their water. Together, wetlands and grasslands can combine to provide critical wildlife habitat while simultaneously serving flood storage needs. WPAs and other conservation lands provide these benefits. The Detroit Lakes Wetland Management District has more than 50,000 acres of WPAs located in the Red-River Basin that are helping to store water and alleviate flooding in our region.
Buffalo-Red River Watershed District Administrator Bruce Albright, explains that water managers in the Basin recognize the need to tackle flooding on several fronts. “We have moved beyond the idea that there is a silver bullet that will solve flooding in the Basin and think the approach is more like a ‘silver shotgun shell’-with lots of smaller efforts that cumulatively will make a difference,” says Albright.
“Wildlife-focused lands will not entirely solve our flooding problems, nor is that our mission. Wildlife-focused lands do, however, play an important role in alleviating flooding and are part of a complex solution to our current flooding problems,” says Kahan.
For more information about water level management activities, please contact Detroit Lakes Wetland Management District, 26624 North Tower Road, Detroit Lakes, MN 56501-7959, 218/847-4431, www.fws.gov/Midwest/DetroitLakes.
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. We are both 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. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.
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