Resource Management

One of the refuge units filled with water.  There is also lots of marsh grass growing in the water.


To help plants and wildlife, refuge staff uses a variety of habitat management techniques to maintain, recover or enhance plant and wildlife values. Refuge staff carefully considers any management techniques and employ them in varying degrees according to the situation. 

A pump station, pipeline, and water control structures were constructed from 1958–62 to bring irrigation return water from Muddy Creek, about 15 miles to the west, to the Benton Lake Refuge to augment natural run-off. Water management at Benton Lake Refuge, since the Muddy Creek pumping system was developed, has sought to consistently flood wetland pools each year to provide breeding and migration habitat for waterfowl. Recently, however, a new management plan has been completed for the refuge that will introduce more drying to the wetland units to reduce contaminants and invasive wetland plants as well as stimulate wetland productivity.

Managing water at the refuge is complex because of the unpredictability of the timing and volume of inflows from natural runoff and the inability to drain most units. Over the last 40 years, natural run-off has varied between 0 and 19,000 acre-feet. The amount of water pumped is decided annually and is governed, in part, by natural runoff received that year, refuge habitat and wildlife objectives, the timing and amount of flows in Muddy Creek due to management by Greenfields Irrigation District and availability of money in the refuge budget for electricity to run the pumps.

In addition to water management, refuge staff may utilize other management techniques such as prescribed fire, haying, grazing, discing and herbicides to manage upland and wetland habitat. Prescribed fire has been used regularly on the refuge. Since 2004, the refuge has burned an average of 2,000 acres per year. In the recent past, haying has also been used to a limited extent on tame grass fields. Cooperative farming and grazing have not been used on the refuge recently, but may be used in the future.

Standardized wildlife surveys and vegetation surveys are conducted throughout the year to inventory populations and document habitat use. Refuge units are evaluated by how well they met habitat and wildlife use objectives.