Resource Management

Crop fields / USFWS

Refuge managers and wildlife biologists depend upon and utilize various tools to manage Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge for the benefit of wildlife.

Providing optimal habitat for wildlife on the refuge is a management priority. Refuge management practices such as grazing, browse/grain crop production, prescribed burning, invasive species control, and water manipulation enhance species diversity by ensuring a variety of habitat types.

When you visit the refuge, you will notice many impoundments. These impoundments occur where playa lakes (shallow depression wetlands, generally smaller than 30 acres) have occurred naturally, and are currently managed to provide ponds and lakes of various sizes and depths. The refuge lowers and raises water levels in the ponds to provide the best mix of feeding, nesting, and breeding habitats for waterfowl and other water birds. This mix of habitats benefits wading, diving and dabbling birds.

Refuge staff, in coordination with the local water users association, spends a great deal of time making sure the water conveyance system functions as smoothly and efficiently as possible. In order to conserve water in this semiarid zone, open ditches have been replaced with more than 13 miles of gravity-fed pipeline. This has also provided a more efficient means of irrigating up to 700 acres of farm fields, where crops such as oats, barley, wheat, and peas are planted to provide food for a variety of migratory birds, like ducks, geese and cranes.

On Las Vegas Refuge, you will see wheat, barley, and peas planted for wildlife to eat and build their fat reserves to fuel their lengthy migration.. National wildlife refuges are often islands in an ocean of developed lands, especially for birds that migrate thousands of miles north and south. That is why refuges often actively manage lands to make sure food, water, and shelter will be as productive as possible.

Finally, don't be surprised if you notice some cattle on the grasslands between May and October. Careful grazing is rejuvenating native grasslands.