Resource Management

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Refuge managers and biologists use a variety of management tools to manage the refuge for the benefit of wildlife.

Managing the Wetlands
Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge's wetlands begin along the salty shores of Galveston Bay and extend inland slowly converting into freshwater marshes and ultimately winding bayous.  From saltwater to brackish to fresh, the wetlands of the refuge support a diversity of wildlife that has evolved to depend on these wetlands.  One of the refuge's management priorities is to ensure the wetlands and marshes continue to function as they did naturally for thousands of years.  Toward this effort, water control structures deliver fresh water and levees keep the salt water out.   Land managers can draw the water down or raise levels according to the historic and changing needs of wildlife.

The refuge also manages moist soil units for the benefit of waterfowl. These fresh water impoundments contain a critical part of the diet of wintering and migrating waterfowl. The moist-soil seeds and plant parts (leaves, roots, and tubers) provide energy and essential nutrients for wintering waterfowl. These wetlands also support abundant and diverse populations of invertebrates, including insects - an important protein source for waterfowl. Refuge staff monitor water levels on the moist soil units and raise or lower them depending on the time of year and types of birds that are currently using the refuge.  

Prescribed Burning
Plants and wildlife evolved with fire as a natural part of the landscape. In this area of the Texas coastline, fire would occur fairly regularly through lightning strikes. It would sweep across the marsh and the prairie cleaning out trees and shrubs and putting important nutrients into the soil. A history of suppressing fires has led to heavy fuel loads in many areas, which often can result in catastrophic wildfires. 

Today, the use of prescribed fire is widely accepted as a primary tool for land and resource managers. Carefully planned prescribed fire gives refuge managers flexibility and increased control to burn under the right conditions, more effectively managing fire effects and smoke to benefit natural resources while keeping firefighters and the public safe. These actions help reduce the risk of devastating wildfires that can threaten people, communities, fish, wildlife and plants. 

Prairie Restoration
Historically, this area included coastal prairie, an ecosystem comprised of wildflowers and grasses that benefited an incredible diversity of wildlife. Much of that prairie was converted to farmland and the diversity of plants were displaced, along with the wildlife that depended on it. One of the management tools used to bring back the prairie includes removing invasive Chinese tallow and other exotic and invasive trees and shrubs which outcompete native plants for limited resources like fresh water. Prescribed fire is used to keep these exotics plants from re-invading the prairie. And one of the most important tools? Cows. Cattle will graze the area and keep the invasive species out. Their hoofs break up the soil and allow native vegetation to seed. They are the replacement of the buffalo, a species that used to come through this area to graze on the prairie.  

Feral Hogs
Feral hogs are an exotic and nuisance species that compete with native wildlife for food as well as cause disturbance to habitat. They can also serve as disease reservoirs and pose a threat to the health of both humans and other animals. Today, Texas is home to an estimated two million feral hogs, the largest feral hog population in the U.S. Their numbers are continuing to increase because of their high reproductive potential (one sow can have up to 30 piglets per year) and the lack of natural predators.