Resource Management


Refuge staff depend upon and utilize various tools to manage the Buffalo Lake National Wildlife Refuge for the benefit of wildlife.

The refuge’s short grass prairies include 175 acres designated a National Natural Landmark. Short grass prairie ecosystems were historically maintained by annual grazing of migrating American bison. With the bison gone, the ecosystem is now maintained using cattle. Areas to be grazed are selected based on the buildup of duff (decaying grasses), invasive species and the overall health of a pasture. After being grazed, a pasture then receives one year of rest. This system of grazing mimics the natural grazing once done by the bison herds.

Another tool used to maintain the refuge’s short grass prairie is the use of controlled burns. Grasslands existed for thousands of years with regular wild fires that helped maintain the open grasslands by keeping out the trees and invasive shrubs. Following a prescription, controlled burns are done on an annual basis through some areas but elsewhere they are on a seven year rotation. This ensures a mix of new and mature growth. Freshly burned areas allow new plant species to become established, while unburned areas continue their progression. This makes for a healthy and diverse habitat that is beneficial to a variety of wildlife.

Flooded each spring, the refuge’s moist soil units in Stewart Marsh are allowed to dry slowly, which promotes the growth of aquatic plants important to waterfowl. The unit is flooded again in the fall just before the birds arrive. The result is food and cover for water birds seeking a rest stop. Additional sources of water for wildlife can be found in the manmade ponds and water tanks throughout the refuge.

Native trees and grasses along the dry lake bed provide nesting areas for migratory birds and food for white-tailed deer and many other wildlife species. These trees were originally planted by the U.S. Forest Service and are maintained to provide this important habitat, little of which is found in the arid Texas Panhandle.

Farming for wildlife, the refuge works with a cooperative farmer to plant wildlife food-crops in the dry lake bottom. The farmer retains two thirds of the crop and the remainder is food for wildlife. The mix of crops, stubble, and natural plants provide important nesting and winter cover for migratory and resident wildlife.