Northern shoveler by Tyler  Zimmerman

Refuge conservation plans are called “comprehensive conservation plans” (CCPs).

(Northern shoveler photo above by Tyler Zimmerman)

  • Comprehensive Conservation Plan


    The purpose of a Comprehensive Conservation Plan is to specify a management direction for the District for the next 15 years. The goals, objectives, and strategies for improving District conditions—including the types of habitat we will provide, partnership opportunities, and management actions needed to achieve desired conditions – are described in the Comprehensive Conservation Plan. The Service’s preferred alternative for managing the District and its effects on the human environment, are described in the Plan as well.

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  • National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act

    Joe releasing banded duck

    National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997: The NWRS Improvement Act defines a unifying mission for all refuges, including a process for determining compatible uses on refuges, and requiring that each refuge be managed according to a CCP. The NWRS Improvement  Act expressly states that wildlife conservation is the priority of System lands and that the Secretary shall ensure that the biological integrity, diversity, and environmental health of refuge lands are maintained. Each refuge must be managed to fulfill the specific purposes for which the refuge was established and the System mission. The first priority of each refuge is to conserve, manage, and if needed, restore fish and wildlife populations and habitats according to its purpose.

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  • Land Acquisition

    Duck Brood 150 x 118

    The Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Act (The Duck Stamp Act) authorizes the purchase of lands using the revenue from the sale of Federal Duck Stamps for the purpose of improving the production of migratory birds, especially waterfowl. Under this program both fee title lands and easements are purchased to protect migratory bird habitat. 



     Waterfowl Production Areas 

    WPAs are public lands purchased with Federal Duck Stamp revenue. While many National Wildlife Refuges protect large blocks of land, WPAs are small, ranging in size from as little as 10 acres to nearly 2,000 acres. They are often broadly dispersed over many counties. More than 3,000 WPAs have been purchased since 1958 when Congress authorized the use of Duck Stamp monies for purchasing small wetlands. 

    Wetland Easements 

    The Duck Stamp Act also funds the purchase of wetland and habitat easements. The wetland easement involves a signed agreement with a landowner protecting wetlands on their land from being burned, drained, filled, or leveled in perpetuity. The landowner receives a one-time payment for protecting the wetlands. When protected wetlands go through dry cycles, they can be farmed, grazed or hayed without violating the agreement. The land remains in private control, and the landowner controls access to these wetlands. 

    Habitat/Grassland Easements 

    Habitat easements generally protect both grassland and wetland habitat, but again the property remains in private control and the landowner allows access. The landowner may be offered one of four options. The first option is complete protection of wetlands and grassland on their property. With this easement, the government purchases the rights to graze, hay, farm, drain, and harvest seed from the property. Two other options allow the landowner to either hay or graze. The haying option purchases all of the above rights except the right to hay or harvest seed. The landowner can hay or harvest seed after July 15th each year, which allows most ground nesting birds to hatch their eggs before any cutting is done. The grazing option allows the landowner to graze the land with no restrictions, but the Service still purchases the rights to hay, harvest seed, farm, and drain. The haying and grazing option allows the landowner to hay after July 15 and graze, but the Service purchases the rights to farm and drain. With any of these options, the landowner receives a one-time payment for the rights that the Service purchases from them. 

    Northern Tallgrass Prairie National Wildlife Refuge 

    In 1999, the Northern Tallgrass Prairie National Wildlife Refuge was established in western Minnesota and northwestern Iowa. The refuge has a goal to preserve 77,000 acres of native prairie and buffer lands adjacent to those prairies. The establishing legislation of this refuge allows native prairie tracts that have never been broken by the plow to be purchased in fee title or to be protected by perpetual easements. Tracts in 48 counties in western Minnesota and 37 counties in northwestern Iowa can be part of this refuge. Many specialist species like the greater prairie chicken, chestnut-collared longspur, marbled godwit, and Dakota skipper butterfly rely on these intact tracts of native prairie to survive. 

    If any of these options to protect your land and provide habitat for migratory birds and prairie specialists sound appealing to you, please contact the Fergus Falls Wetland Management District for more information about these programs.  Call 218-739-2291.