About the District

Aerial View of District Wetlands

Crosby Wetland Management District (WMD) is located in Divide, Burke, and Williams Counties in northwestern North Dakota. The district includes over 18,000 acres of Waterfowl Production Areas (WPA's), numerous grassland and wetland easements, and the 3,219 acre Lake Zahl National Wildlife Refuge. The district headquarters is located two miles south of Crosby along Highway 42.


Crosby WMD History/Geology

Crosby WMD is divided into three geologic areas. Northern Burke and northeastern Divide Counties are drift plain, an area of large shallow potholes. South of this, the Altamont Moraine complex (Missouri Coteau) is approximately 15 to 30 miles wide and crosses the WMD diagonally from northwest to southeast. South and west of the Moraine lies the Coteau slope, an area of land sloping gently to the Missouri River. WPA's and easements are distributed throughout the three areas and Lake Zahl Refuge lies within the Coteau Slope. 
Before settlement, the dominant native vegetation was mixed grass prairie. The most common native shrub was wolfberry (buckbrush) with rose and buffaloberry also being present. Groves of aspen and willow, with an occasional cottonwood, grew on the rims of wetlands. The area was homesteaded in the late 1800's and early 1900's with farming the primary land use. Livestock production was secondary. The depression of the 1930's forced many farmers to sell land and livestock. The early 1940's, however, ushered in a period of prosperity that caused a boom in small grain production. Prairie is still being converted to cropland today.

 Hilltop View_324x484 


Waterfowl Production Areas

WPA's are lands owned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; purchased with money generated from the sales of Federal Ducks Stamps. They are managed to establish and protect waterfowl breeding and nesting habitat. There are 99 WPA's scattered in the three county district. They vary in size from the 12-acre Olson Unit in Williams County, to the 2,270-acre Fuller Unit in Williams County. 

Hunting is permitted on WPA's.  For more information about hunting and other public use regulations and opportunities, check out our Visitor Activities page.  

 WPA Wetland_324x484 



Wetland and Grassland Easements

Grassland Easements - Many wildlife species depend on grasslands for food, cover and nesting locations. Grassland easements are legal agreements between the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and private land owners. The agreement provides payment to the landowner to keep the land in grass. Land covered under a grassland easement cannot be cultivated or otherwise disturbed, but grazing is not restricted in any way. Mowing, haying and grass seed harvesting are also allowed but not until after July 15th of each year. This restraint allows grassland nesting birds to complete their nesting cycle before the grass is disturbed. 

Wetland Easements - Wetlands provide crucial habitat for many types of wildlife including waterfowl and other migratory bird species. Similar to grassland easements, wetlands easements are agreements between the Service and private landowners that permanently protect wetlands. Wetlands on properties with wetland easements cannot be drained, leveled, filled or burned. When the wetlands dry up naturally, they may be farmed through, grazed or hayed. 

Protecting these habitats ensures that they will be there for future generations. There are several hundred easement contracts in the Crosby Wetland Management District that protect nearly 70,000 acres of wetlands and over 25,000 acres of native grasslands.

Prairie Wetland_512x380



The Lake Zahl National Wildlife Refuge is managed primarily for waterfowl production but it is also used by thousands of waterfowl and other water birds as a resting and feeding area during migration. 

 Lake Zahl Sunset_350x525 

The Lostwood National Wildlife Refuge lies in the heart of the Missouri Coteau region, an ancient glacial moraine area. Topography ranges from rolling to steep hills and is covered by mixed-grass prairie. The area is dotted with wetlands that are often called "potholes." At 26,904 acres total, the Refuge contains a 5,577-acre Wilderness Area established in 1975.