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: 
Three burns totaling 526 acres were accomplished in 2011. From 1998-2008, an average of seven prescribed fires encompassing 603 acres were conducted annually. Approximately 1,000 acres are planned for prescribed fire treatment in 2012.

Historically, Refuge grasslands were over-grazed by the former owner until 1942, followed by a 25% decrease in animal unit months (AUMs) from 1943-1972. By 1980, AUMs had been reduced by more than 75% and units were being afforded longer periods of rest.

During the spring of 2002, a group of habitat management, wildlife biology, and soils professionals conducted a grassland management study on the Refuge. As a result of this study, we are now grazing more frequently but at a lighter intensity, utilizing 3-6 years rest between treatments. This more accurately mimics the historic pattern of disturbance when Bison herds and wildfire shaped the Sandhills. We also use annual grazing to convert cool season exotics and natives to warm season grasses.

We have also incorporated fall grazing in penstemon units and multiple year (fall/spring) treatments to reduce litter layers favored by overwintering mice and voles.  Reducing mice and vole densities in these areas make them less attractive to the Bullsnake.  Although Bullsnakes are a valuable member of the Refuge community, it is desirable to limit their numbers in areas used heavily by ground-nesting birds.

We annually graze approximately 17,880 acres (5 yr average). This accounts for approximately 4,000 AUMs annually.

Average last five years AUMs:
Spring - 2006 AUMs - In order to favor warm season grasses and forbs.
Summer - 881 AUMs- Light treatments.
Fall - 1123 AUMs - Expose penstemon units for blowout survival. 

The following surveys are conducted on the Refuge:

  • small mammal 
  • rail/bittern
  • Coyote
  • breeding bird
  • Barn Owl
  • colonial nesting bird
  • grouse lek
  • deer (spotlight)
  • raptor
  • heron rookery
  • toad/frog
  • pheasant crow count
  • passerine and waterfowl nesting (nest dragging)
  • waterfowl pair/brood
  • Blowout Penstemon
  • goose tub/henhouse
  • Muskrat 
  • wetland
  • wetland vegetation 

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.

Nesting Structures:

There are 105 goose tubs, 35 cavity nesting boxes, and numerous duck henhouses on the Refuge.

Trapping Occurs on this Refuge.

Trapping is a wildlife management tool used on some national wildlife refuges. Trapping may be used to protect endangered and threatened species or migratory birds or to control certain wildlife populations. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also views trapping as a legitimate recreational and economic activity when there are harvestable surpluses of fur-bearing mammals. Outside of Alaska, refuges that permit trapping as a recreational use may require trappers to obtain a refuge special use permit. Signs are posted on refuges where trapping occurs. Contact the refuge manager for specific regulations. 

Trapping on National Wildlife Refuges