U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Division of Refuge Planning
Mountain-Prairie Region

Completed Plan Contacts

The Service completed this plan
in 2002.



Waubay National Wildlife Refuge Complex
44401 134A Street
Waubay, South Dakota 57273


605 / 947 4521



Comprehensive Conservation Plan

Waubay National Wildlife Refuge Complex

South Dakota


This plan is for the following units:

  • Waubay National Wildlife Refuge
  • Waubay Wetland Management District

The comprehensive conservation plan sets the management and use of Waubay National Wildlife Refuge Complex for 15 years. This refuge complex is in northeastern South Dakota.

"A nesting place for birds" is the literal translation of the Sioux word, Waubay. This aptly named refuge complex is in the largest duck production area in the continental United States—the Prairie Pothole Region.

Waubay National Wildlife Refuge

The purpose of the refuge is to serve as a refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife.

  • Established in 1935.
  • Comprises 4,650 acres.
  • Located northwest of the town of Waubay, North Dakota, in Day County.

Located in the Central Flyway, Waubay National Wildlife Refuge provides a safe place for migrating birds to feed and rest. The refuge is a mix of lakes, wetland, prairie, forest, and cropland that is home to more than 37 mammal species and 100 bird species, including both eastern and western birds. Surrounded by open prairie, the refuge offers a unique glimpse at eastern deciduous forest. The refuge includes the 40-acre Hillebrand Lake Research Natural Area that has native bur oak and bluestem prairie.

Waubay Wetland Management District

The purposes of the district are (1) to serve "as Waterfowl Production Areas subject … to all of the provisions … except the inviolate sanctuary provisions" and "for any other management purpose, for migratory birds" (Migratory Bird Conservation Act), and (2) "for conservation purposes" (Consolidated Farm and Rural Development Act).

  • Established in 1962.
  • Comprises more than 275,000 acres including 40,000 acres in more than 300 waterfowl production areas, 105,000 acres of wetland easements, 126,000 acres of grassland easements, and 5,260 acres of Farmers Home Administration conservation easements.
  • Located throughout the counties of Clark, Codington, Day, Grant, Marshall, and Roberts, North Dakota.

District habitats consist of native grass, planted grasses, cropland, and wetland that support 247 species of birds, 43 species of mammals, and more than 20 species of amphibians and reptiles. Waterfowl production areas provide vital wildlife habitat in a landscape of cropland and pasture.

Interspersed with grasslands, this landscape provides habitat not only for waterfowl, shorebirds, and other waterbirds, but also for raptors and grassland-dependent bird species. Bobolinks, upland sandpipers, and Savannah sparrows are commonly seen on district lands. Butterfly species include the elusive and rare Dakota skipper.

Image of the plan cover showing storm clouds over a refuge wetland.

Plan cover showing a stormy day at the refuge complex.

The plan

Major actions for the refuge in the comprehensive conservation plan follow:

  • Preserve, restore, and enhance the ecological diversity of grasslands, wetlands, and native woodlands by (1) converting more than 250 acres of nonnative vegetation to native plant communities, (2) eliminating 95 percent of Russian olive and juniper stands, and (3) reducing by 50 percent invasive plants.
  • Develop and carry out a habitat management plan within 5 years.
  • Enhance wetland conditions and restore at least 50 acres of native woodlands.
  • Improve the hunting and fishing experience, double the number of students receiving environmental education, and improve public use facilities—all to foster an understanding and appreciation of the ecology and management of plants and animals and the role of humans in the Prairie Pothole Region.

Major actions for the district in the comprehensive conservation plan follow:

  • Provide grassland, wetland, and native woodland habitats capable of supporting 500,000 breeding ducks.
  • Continue to provide quality opportunities for hunting, fishing, and trapping at waterfowl production areas.
  • Educate visitors about the district's role in conserving wildlife in the Prairie Pothole Region.


Comprehensive conservation plan (CCP)
CCP 2002 (3 MB PDF)

By section, for faster download:
Plan (2 MB PDF)
Appendixes (1 MB PDF)

Draft CCP and environmental assessment (EA)
Draft CCP and EA 2002 (9 MB PDF)

By section, for faster download:
Contents, summary (3 MB PDF)
Chapter 1, introduction/background (1 MB PDF)
Chapter 2, planning process (PDF)
Chapter 3, summary Waubay complex and resource descriptions (5 MB PDF)
Chapter 4, management direction (PDF)
Chapter 5, implementation and monitoring (PDF)
Appendixes (PDF)