Office of External Affairs
Mountain-Prairie Region


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Mountain-Prairie Region
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228

May 4, 2009

Contact: Jackie Jacobson

               701-442-5474  ext. 17





Over 150 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service personnel from ten states joined forces with local, state, and federal operations to protect public safety and welfare in Bismarck, Jamestown, Valley City, Fargo, Minot, and several smaller surrounding communities impacted by spring flooding.


As the nation’s principal conservation agency, the Service is generally associated with managing wildlife habitat and species work.  What led to such active involvement by the Service in the recent flood response efforts in North Dakota?


The answer is airboats. Airboats are unique and powerful watercraft commonly utilized on units of the National Wildlife Refuge System. Airboats provided the Service with an opportunity to lend a helping hand to neighboring communities during recent flood events in the Dakotas.  Unlike outboard and jet-powered boats, airboats have no operating parts below the waterline, making it suitable for maneuvering in shallow flooded areas where it also was used to cross roads, golf courses, dikes, and other challenging areas that other boats could not access.


As spring water levels rose throughout North and South Dakota, Service crews deployed 25 airboats to flooded areas, safely navigating ice, snow banks, trees, floating branches and other debris to conduct numerous rescues and evacuations of families and pets. Service airboat crews also delivered medication and medical assistance to those in need and conducted welfare checks on people who opted to stay in homes to maintain surrounding sandbag dikes,. The Service airboat crews also handled other missions including transporting U.S. Geological Survey crews out to take flow readings on the rivers and shuttle demolition crews to blow up an ice jam on the Missouri River, and providing electrical company personnel with access to infrastructure to restore power to thousands of homes.


In addition to the airboats and operators, Service personnel contributed assistance to many communities and refuge neighbors in the form of heavy equipment and operators who built earthen dikes and staff who filled and placed sandbags around structures to protect them from the rising flood waters.


As the citizens of neighboring communities return to their homes and businesses, and move into flood recovery and clean-up efforts, Service personnel face a similar task. Units of the National Wildlife Refuge System and Waterfowl Production Areas administered by the Service also incurred substantial damage to offices and maintenance buildings, dikes on large wetlands and lakes, and many water control structures and roads. Inventorying and repairing these damages will be a priority task for the agency over the next months. 


Photos of USFWS airboats and crews in action available upon request.


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


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