Resource Management

Cattle Grazing 512x219

Crescent Lake National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1931 as a refuge and breeding ground for birds and wild animals. Grazing and prescribed fire are two important tools used to maintain habitat quality for nesting and migratory birds. Habitat management supports tall warm season grasses in the meadows while maintaining grassland diversity in the uplands.

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 all management activities before implementing them, as environmental conditions are constantly changing.  This is known as "adaptive management." 

Water levels are carefully monitored and controlled to foster desired plant growth. Sometimes, sensitive areas are closed to the public so that the land can recover more quickly.   Prescribed burning, mowing, experimental bio-control insect releases, and seeding are also some of the techniques used to help native plants recover on national wildlife refuges.

Standardized wildlife and vegetation surveys are conducted on some refuges throughout the year to inventory populations and document habitat use. Units are evaluated by how well they meet habitat and wildlife use objectives. 

Public involvement and input are important to us and to the planning process, and we hope you will participate in the process, both individually and as a community. 

Crescent Lake NWR Habitats:
*Sub-irrigated Meadows- 4,126 acres
*Uplands- 33,014 acres
*Wetlands- 8,709 acres including 21 lakes and numerous small wetlands

Special Areas:
*Research Natural Areas- 1,076 acres (Goose Lake and Hackberry Units)
*Proposed Wilderness Area- 24,502 acres (Encompasses the eastern half of the Refuge)


Crescent Lake NWR Management Practices:

Prescribed Fire: 
Fire historically was an ecological driver in the grasslands.  Today we mimic these fires with prescribed burning.  Crescent Lake NWR has set up 1200-1800 acre burns set up on a 5 year ration to reflect historical fire intervals.

Grazing: The grassland eco-system also evolved with grazing, primarily by bison.  Bison have been replaced on the prairie by cattle.  Crescent Lake uses a permit system that allows ranchers to graze their cattle on the refuge for a fee.  The previous landowner held the permit until 1942, grazing as they had done with their ranch.  After 1942 Refuge managers began reducing grazing or the number of animal unit months (AUMs), to allow for more rest and cover to build up.  By 1980 AUM had been reduced by over half.  

Current grazing includes grazing in all grazing in all seasons of the year to reach habitat goals for a variety of species.  Fall and winter grazing can create short areas of cover in April for the long-billed curlew, but still allow for vigorous plant growth in the spring for nesting waterfowl.  Spring grazing reduces the vigor of invasive cool-season grasses and allows open spaces for germination of summer flowers for butterflies.  Summer grazing can expose the choppy hills to wind erosion until the next spring to aid in habitat creation for the endangered blowout penstemon.

The following surveys are conducted on the Refuge:

  • Grouse Lek
  • Blowout Penstemon
  • Grassland Vegetation
  • Breeding Bird
  • Barn Owl
  • Grassland Bird Nesting (incidental)

Water Management Units:
Nine units have water management capability. Water level manipulation is primarily used for management of migrating waterfowl and shorebirds. Water levels are maintained to provide productive foraging habitat.

Trapping on National Wildlife Refuges