Resource Management

Cows grazing on the pasture

Grasslands evolved with the presence of disturbance from bison and natural fires. Through our management activities, we are able to provide the disturbance that is necessary for healthy grasslands and the wildlife that depend on them. The needs of wildlife and their habitats are the primary determining factors of any habitat management strategy on the District. 


Grazing is an important management tool in the District and is important for maintaining healthy grasslands on our waterfowl production areas. When used properly, grazing removes old vegetation, stimulates new plant growth, restructures vegetation, affects plant species composition, and enhances animal diversity. Hoof impact by grazing animals can break up capped soils, improve the water cycle, stimulate vegetative reproduction of stoloniferous grasses, and enhance the decomposition of old plant material by breaking up plant litter. Hoof action can also distribute and trample seeds into soils, increasing chances of successful germination. Nutrients are returned to the soil in the form of urine and feces.

Prescribed Fire

Fire can be very important to the natural health and vigor of grasslands and shrublands and is used as a management tool on waterfowl production areas throughout the District. Fire is used to remove litter and ladder fuel, control noxious weeds, reduce woody vegetation or to improve the height and density of plant cover. Fire releases nutrients tied up in vegetative matter and removes dead vegetation that inhibits new growth. Fire can suppress exotic plant species and prevent the invasion of woody species, such as juniper, into native grasslands; however, fire may also allow invasion of fire tolerant species such as cheat grass and spotted knapweed. Regrowth following fire can be especially attractive to wildlife because of the increased nutrition and palatability of new plants.

Haying and Mowing

Haying and mowing management strategies are generally used to enhance tame grass or tame grass/legume stands and to control spread of invasive weeds. Haying temporarily removes residual, dead, and matted vegetation and stimulates new growth, which improves habitat structure and diversity. Seed production, seed germination, and growth of desirable plants can result from properly timed haying.

Cooperative Farming

When lands are included in the Refuge System as waterfowl production areas, they often contain cropland or degraded stands of tame grasses instead of native habitat conditions. In these cases, the cropland is usually seeded back to native cover or, where restoration to a native condition is not feasible, to Dense Nesting Cover for waterfowl. If tame grass stands are in very poor condition or have serious weed problems, farming to create a clean seedbed may be required for 2 – 4 years. Farming and seeding is used only to reestablish grassland or nesting cover and return an altered landscape to a more native condition.

Water Management

Most of the wetlands on Waterfowl Production Areas within the District are subject to natural flooding and drying cycles and are not intensively managed or manipulated.