Resource Management

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 any management techniques and employ them in varying degrees according to the situation.

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 ground and aerial wildlife surveys 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 met habitat and wildlife use objectives.

Public involvement and input are important to us and to the planning process, and we hope you will take an active interest in the process, individually and as a community.

Wildlife Management Techniques

Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge is managed to improve and maintain its variety of wildlife habitats. Techniques used at the refuge include
maintaining and creating wildlife habitat,
providing artificial nesting habitat,
monitoring bird populations
combating invasive plants
reducing fuels for wildfires

Maintaining and Creating Wildlife Habitat
Managers maintain natural nesting habitat by setting prescribed fires on the refuge islands. These fires simulate flooding that occurred before the Snake River was dammed. Fires clear some of the shrubby undergrowth and allow the return of grasses that serve as better nesting habitat for geese and ducks.

Refuge staff also create wildlife habitat. Wetlands have been created below the upper dam of Lake Lowell to provide feeding, nesting, and resting habitat for a variety of wetlands-dependent species, including mallards, sora rails, yellow-headed blackbirds, and other wildlife.

In addition, each year local farmers grow corn, beans, peas, wheat, and alfalfa on approximately 240 acres of irrigated refuge croplands. Farming at Deer Flat is literally "for the birds." In summer, pheasants, deer, and other wildlife feed and nest in these fields. In fall, the farmers harvest a share of the crop and leave the rest. In fall and winter, Canada geese and other wildlife harvest the remaining crop.

Providing Artificial Nesting Habitat
Refuge staff and volunteers construct and place artificial nesting habitat, including many wood duck nesting boxes and several osprey platforms. Wood duck boxes provide nesting habitat for wood ducks as well as a variety of other cavity-nesting birds.

Monitoring Bird Populations
Refuge staff and volunteers survey waterfowl populations throughout the year to monitor the health of the regional population and help Idaho Fish and Game set hunting limits. Each winter, waterfowl are surveyed weekly at Lake Lowell. Each spring, goose nests are surveyed on the Snake River islands. Each fall, migratory ducks and geese are caught and banded. Ducks banded at Deer Flat have been recovered as far away as Guatemala, and a goose banded at Deer Flat was recovered 24 years after banding. 

Combating Invasive Plants
Invasive plants like purple loosestrife, cheatgrass, and Russian olive have become a major problem at the refuge because they don't provide good wildlife habitat. Invasive plants are usually not native to the area, having been either accidentally or intentionally introduced. Unfortunately, their natural enemies were not introduced as well, so they often crowd out natives.

At Deer Flat, we are trying a variety of techniques to battle invasive plants. In the past several years, we've released insects that specialize in eating invasive plants like purple loosestrife and Canada thistle. In addition, we've mechanically removed Russian olives and revegetated with native plants like skunkbush sumac.

Once the exotic grass cheatgrass invades an area, it is difficult for native plants to return. This is particularly a problem after fires, when cheatgrass can take over in areas that were previously dominated by sagebrush and other natives. Areas infested by cheatgrass are at greater risk of burning again, are of lower value to wildlife, and are less appealing to recreationists.

Reducing Wildfire Fuels
To reduce the risk of large, difficult-to-control wildfire that threatens wildlife habitat and our neighbors' homes and businesses, the refuge conducted several fuels-reduction projects in summer 2002 and fall 2003. On the south side of the lake, a mulching brush-cutter selectively cut trees and brush up to 2 feet in diameter and reduced them to mulch. This thinning reduces fire risk and also increases habitat diversity and creates edge habitats that are particularly popular with wildlife like deer and rabbits. In addition, by leaving the mulch on site, nutrients are returned to the soil and the mulch helps to retain moisture and prevent soil erosion.

Check-out our Bird, Mammals, Reptiles and plant species lists

Wildlife through the seasons

Tips for watching wildlife