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Resource Management

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Prairie Restoration

Many areas of Lacreek National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) were historically plowed and agricultural crops grown on them. This effectively eliminated the native plant communities that existed. After the Refuge acquired these areas, most of the acres were planted to crested wheatgrass and smooth brome grass. Over the next 70 years, these exotic cool season grasses became well established and the native plant species which existed here never returned. Refuge staff believe that re-establishing and maintaining diverse native plant communities provides the best long term and sustainable solution to providing wildlife habitat on the Refuge. Native plant communities are well adapted to wide variations in climate that occur from year to year and respond favorably to prescribed burning, grazing, and water level manipulations. Diverse native plant communities are more resistant to invasive species. Diverse native plant communities also provide the habitat requirements needed by the suite of grassland birds found here.

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Wetland Management

The Refuge has 13 water impoundments creating nearly 5,400 acres of shallow flooded marsh and open water habitat. Water can be added or removed from each impoundment via water control structures. Controlled water level manipulations are one of the most effective ways to manage wetlands for migratory birds. Perennial flow of water coming on to the Refuge via Lake Creek, Cedar Creek, and Elm Creek coupled with the water control structures allow for moist-soil management opportunities. The term "moist-soil" refers to manipulating conditions within wetlands so that seeds from wetland plants (mostly annuals) can germinate, grow, and set seed.

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Invasive Species Management

Invasive or exotic species are one of the biggest challenges currently facing natural resource managers. Invasive species threaten habitat quality, ecosystem processes, and biodiversity - all of which could potentially harm wildlife. Because of the threats invasive species pose to native plant communities and wildlife, control of exotic species is often a goal of natural resource management. Lacreek NWR has an aggressive exotic species control program to rehabilitate degraded habitats and prevent further spread of exotic species. A variety of exotic species including leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula), perennial sow thistle (Sonchus arvensis), and bull thistle (Cirsium vulgare) are currently being managed at the Refuge; however, the most troublesome is Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense). Canada thistle, a native to Europe, is believed to have been introduced into North America during the early 17th century. It has since spread throughout much of the central and northern United States and has become a noxious plant of range and grasslands.

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Fire Management

Fire, whether human-caused or started by lightning, has been a part of the prairie ecosystem for thousands of years. Grassland species of the northern great plains evolved under periodic disturbance and defoliation from bison and fire. This periodic disturbance kept the grasslands healthy for thousands of years and is needed to keep them healthy today. It has been one way that the prairie ecosystem has been continually maintained and restored. The Refuge is located in the mixed-grass ecosystem, a geographical area which has been subjected to the effects of fire for centuries. The historical fire frequency on the mixed grass prairie is believed to be once in every 5 to 7 years.

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Last Updated: Jul 16, 2014
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