Resource Management

Water Management

Everyone thinks biologists spend all their time releasing wolves, or mist-netting birds, or tranquilizing bears. In reality, most management involves manipulating and/or restoring habitats. With good habitats, most wildlife does just fine without direct intervention.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service actively manages Conboy Lake NWR's land and resources to improve habitat for wildlife. One resource that is carefully managed is water. Balancing human and agricultural use with wildlife requires cooperation between the refuge and its neighbors.

Refuge water management mimics the natural cycle of flooding and drying that existed prior to attempts to drain Conboy Lake. The main goal is to hold enough winter water for late summer wildlife needs. The location, depth and timing of water distribution is important. Migrating mallards, pintail, teal and swans need shallow water for rest, food and safety.

Receding water creates mud margins used by killdeer, spotted sandpipers and other shorebirds. Wading birds, like great blue herons, work the shallow waters for young fish and invertebrates. Irrigated meadows stimulate new plant growth, or browse, for migrating Canada geese.

A combination of haying and flooding provides foraging for cranes, especially colts. Flooding previously hayed fields also looks promising for enhancing spotted frog breeding habitat. Prescribed burning improves soil conditions and checks the spread of pines into the meadowlands.

Planting native plants supports animals by making the plant community more diverse. Sometimes sensitive habitats are closed to minimize disturbance or promote natural recovery.