Resource Management

Resource Pic 1

Flint Hills National Wildlife Refuge's 18,463 acres require a combination of protection, restoration, and maintaining of several types of habitats.

Resource Management at Flint Hills NWR


Although the management at Flint Hills NWR is focused on migratory waterfowl, management activities also promote other migratory birds, and many resident wildlife species.  We also protect remnants of the native tallgrass prairie that once dominated the landscape in this area and restore additional prairies, and conduct restoration and management of the forested areas that occur naturally along streams and rivers. 



Prairie Management and Restoration


Tallgrass prairie once dominated the landscape across more than 170 million acres of the United States including the area where Flint Hills NWR now lies.  The area dominated by tallgrass prairie was sought out by early settlers for its rich soil and was quickly converted to cropland.  Small remnants of the native prairie remain intact at Flint Hills NWR, and current management is directed at protecting those remnant prairies.  Tallgrass prairie ecosystems are adapted to wildfire intervals of every 3-5 years and without fire are soon converted to forest, so prescribed fire is employed to mimic those requirements.  We also hay and graze prairie areas to mimic the grazing by bison that naturally occurred.    

Restoration occurs in two main phases:  removal of unwanted vegetation, and planting of native species.  Removal is conducted both to reduce woody plant coverage and to discourage spread, and is often conducted in several phases, combining prescribed fire, mechanical removal, and/or chemical treatment by herbicide.  Specialized heavy equipment is used to cut and stack trees.  Smaller trees (seedlings) and brush can be cut using a tractor-mounted brush hog.  Herbicide is usually applied to freshly-cut stumps.  Prescribed burns can assist either before or after mechanical removal (or both).   Herbicide treatment, combined with other control methods, is often used to control invasive, non-native plants such as Sericea Lezpediza, and Johnson Grass.  Herbicides can be applied by a backpack sprayer, ATV mounted or tractor-mounted boom sprayer. 

After removal of unwanted woody and/or herbaceous plants, native prairie species are then planted via broadcasting or seed drill.  Prairie grasses such as Little Bluestem, Indiangrass, and swichgrass are planted, along with a wide variety of native wildflowers. Some areas may have to undergo several plantings, and other management methods will continually be used, such as prescribed fire and mechanical plant removal.   



Management 2 

Woody and non-native species encroachment on Native Prairies

 Wetland Restoration 

Historically, the Neosho River floodplain was covered with hundreds of shallow wetlands depressions that filled during the frequent flood events that sent the river out of its banks.  During the hot, dry summer months these wetlands grew vegetation that typically produces a tremendous amount of small seeds that are the ideal diet for migrating waterfowl as they pass through the area.  When fall rains recharge the wetlands, the wetlands provided the food and shelter migrating waterfowl required to return to their nesting grounds in prime condition to nest successfully. 

Most of these natural wetlands have been lost throughout the river floodplain because of agriculture and other developments.  To mimic the natural wet and dry cycles on the Refuge, the staff actively manages over 2,500 acres of restored wetland habitat through the use of pumps, levees, and water control structures.  The Refuge staff uses different management practices to restore or enhance wetlands including mechanical and chemical control of undesirable and non-native plant species.  The staff rotates treatment of wetland units on multi-year management practice to allow for abundant growth of desirable species for migratory waterfowl.  

Because of the destructive power of flood events along the Neosho River annual maintenance to wetland levees and water control structures is required.  These structures are built in a manner that reduces damage or in a manner that isolates the damage to a location where it can be easily repaired to reduce those maintenance requirements.  


 Management 5 

Mitigation project, constructing new levee system.