U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Division of Refuge Planning
Mountain-Prairie Region

Completed Plan Contacts

The Service completed this plan
in 2010.




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


605 / 947 4521






Land Protection Plan

Waubay National Wildlife Refuge Complex

Land Exchange

South Dakota


In northeastern South Dakota, a land exchange to consolidate Service lands will improve the efficiency of managing prime waterfowl habitat—by increasing the size of Waubay National Wildlife Refuge and decreasing the number of waterfowl production areas in the Waubay Wetland Management District.

  • Transfers about 3,736 acres in 25 of the Service’s waterfowl production areas to South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks in exchange for about 3,780 acres of the State’s game production areas.
  • Located in 10 counties: Brown, Clark, Codington, Day, Edmunds, Marshall, McPherson, Roberts, Spink, and Walworth.

An environmental assessment documented the Service's analysis of the environmental and social effects of the land exchange.

The land exchange area is in the Prairie Pothole Region, which produces more than half of North America’s waterfowl. Tallgrass prairie and mixed-grass prairie, along with interspersed wetlands, provide important habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife.

Tallgrass prairie is the wettest prairie ecosystem in South Dakota and is dominated by plants such as big bluestem, Indiangrass, and purple coneflower. Dominant plants in mixed-grass prairie include western wheatgrass, blue grama, and scarlet globemallow.

More than 250 bird species regularly occur in the area, and about 109 of these species nest there. Canada geese, snow geese, common goldeneye, bufflehead, mergansers, and other waterfowl migrate through in spring and fall. Some of the species that nest in the area are Canada goose, mallard, northern shoveler, and wood duck.

Grassland birds include bobolink, western meadowlark, and grasshopper sparrow. Sharp-tailed grouse nest in the area.

Wetlands associated with grassland attracts a great variety of shorebirds, wading birds, and songbirds such as killdeer, American avocet, great blue heron, black tern, yellow-headed blackbird, and marsh wren.

Photo of several Canada geese and mallards in water at the edge of a partially frozen pond. Copyright Mike Artmann

Mallard ducks and Canada geese mingle on an icy pond. © Mike Artmann

The uplands and lowlands provide habitat for many small mammals, which are important food resources for red-tailed hawk and other raptors. Eastern fox squirrels are common in the wooded areas. The most common large mammal is white-tailed deer.

Key aspects of the land exchange:

  • Improve habitat conditions for waterfowl on land holdings of both wildlife management agencies.
  • Trade small parcels of land to the larger landowner where State and Federal lands adjoin, leaving a similar land base acreage but with bigger units.
  • Decrease confusion for the visiting public faced with different boundary signs on areas they perceive as one unit of public land.
  • Continue livestock grazing, where currently occurring on exchange lands, in the same units.
  • Add no additional refuge staff to manage this acquisition.


Environmental assessment
Environmental assessment 2010 (1 MB PDF)