U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Division of Refuge Planning
Mountain-Prairie Region

Completed Plan Contacts

The Service completed this plan
in 1997.



Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge
2155 West Forest Street
Brigham City, Utah 84302


435 / 723 5887



Comprehensive Management Plan

Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge



A comprehensive management plan is a plan done before Congress passed the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, which requires the Service to prepare comprehensive conservation plans. The comprehensive management plan sets the management and use of Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge for 15 years. The refuge is on the north end of the Great Salt Lake at the mouth of Bear River, west of Brigham City, Utah.

Historically, the marshes of the refuge have been an oasis for waterbirds in arid desert. As the largest freshwater component of the Great Salt Lake ecosystem, the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge is designated as a Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network site. 

The purpose of the refuge is to serve as a "suitable refuge and feeding and breeding grounds for migratory wildfowl" (Presidential Proclamation, Public Law 302).

  • Established in 1928.
  • Comprises 74,000 acres.
  • Located 50 miles north of Salt Lake City, Utah, in Box Elder County.

The refuge and its environs support diverse plant and animal species in a mosaic of upland, mudflat, river delta, brackish and freshwater marshes, temporary ponds, and uplands. Refuge uplands have scattered knolls that form a unique ecological community in the Bear River delta.

The refuge lies along the eastern edge of the Pacific Flyway and the western edge of the Central Flyway, making it an important resting, feeding, and nesting area for birds in both flyways. Of more than 200 bird species that use the refuge, 67 species nest on the refuge. American avocets and black-necked stilts nest by the thousands along refuge dikes and roads. White-faced ibis nest in dense emergent vegetation in large colonies of up to 10,000 birds. Migrant tundra swans can number in the tens of thousands in the spring and fall. The Service uses a complex system of dikes and water control structures to provide different water depths for a variety of waterbird species over the seasons.

Image of the plan cover showing a refuge wetland at sunset.


Major actions in the comprehensive management plan follow:

  • Intensively manage uplands, mudflats, wet meadows, marshes, and open channels to provide the life requirements of native migratory birds, and to also benefit mammals and nonmigratory birds.
  • Construct a new visitor center and design a new outreach program to increase opportunities for the public to learn about the Service and the natural world.
  • Protect and interpret archaeological, historical, and other cultural resources.
  • Acquire new fee-title land up to 16,981 acres for a visitor center as well as grassland and wetland habitats.
  • Acquire conservation easements to protect an additional 21,309 acres of river delta wetlands.


Comprehensive management plan (CMP)
CMP 1997 (8 MB PDF)

By section, for faster download:
Approval, contents (PDF)
Introduction (1 MB PDF)
Vision, goals, objectives (1 MB PDF)
Management guidelines and strategies (4 MB PDF)
Monitoring and evaluation (1 MB PDF)
Appendices (2 MB PDF)