Resource Management

Resource Management 329x219








Conservation is a state of harmony between men and land.

~Aldo Leopold  

 Lower Hatchie National Wildlife Refuge was authorized by the Migratory Bird Conservation Act of 1929 (16 U.S.C. 715d) for “... use as an inviolate sanctuary, or for any other management purpose, for migratory birds.”  

Refuge lands provide a variety of habitat types for a diversity of wildlife species. Habitats found on the refuge consist of approximately 39 acres of open administrative land, 1,256 acres of agriculture and moist-soil open land (the agriculture/moist-soil breakdown varies from year to year), 777 acres of baldcypress/tupelo forest, 5,719 acres of mixed bottomland hardwood forest, 89 acres of grassland, 119 acres of open water, 373 acres of sandbar, 32 acres of scrub/shrub, and 1,047 acres of upland forest. The Sunk Lake Public Use Natural Area includes 3 acres of administrative lands, 274 acres of baldcypress/tupelo forest, 1,466 acres of mixed bottomland hardwood forests, and 130 acres of open water. The total current deeded acreage being managed as Lower Hatchie Refuge is 9,451 acres (February 2004). The Sunk Lake Public Use Natural Area includes a total of 1,873 acres. 

 The refuge practices several different types of management techniques to provide optimum habitat for wintering waterfowl.  

Click Next to learn about these practices.

Moist Soil Impoundments

Moist Soil wetlands historically occurred where openings existed in bottomland hardwoods.  Forest openings were often caused by high winds, catastrophic floods, beavers, fires, etc.  Man-made impoundments are commonly managed as moist-soil wetlands.  Moist-soil areas are typified by seed producing annuals such as smartweed, wild millet, and sprangletop.  Planting moist-soil areas is not necessary because native plant seeds are abundant in frequently flooded soils.  Over 2,500 pounds per acre of seed can be produced in a properly managed moist-soil area.  (Wetland Management for Waterfowl-A Handbook 2007)

 Moist-soil habitats are an integral part of managing public wetlands for waterfowl as these food resources are provided in large part only on State and Federal lands. Lower Hatchie Refuge and the associated river floodplain are capable of supplying food resources such as barnyard grass, sprangletop, smartweeds, rice cut-grass, and a host of other beneficial herbaceous plant species. The refuge provides early successional habitats which play a key role in the migration patterns of mid-continent waterfowl and other migratory birds. The refuge’s present and future will, in large part, be influenced by resource management, which actively benefits waterfowl, including moist soil-habitat. The management of the refuge’s moist-soil units will continue to address habitat issues, which affect migratory bird populations, in keeping with refuge goals and establishing purposes.

There are approximately 1,256 acres of agriculture/moist-soil open lands at Lower Hatchie Refuge. In any given year, approximately 50 percent of these lands are managed for agricultural production and 50 percent are managed for moist soil, although the ratio varies from year-to-year due to river flooding and other factors. Croplands are managed under cooperative agreements with local farmers, who grow corn, soybeans, and winter wheat in rotation.

Click next to learn about our valuable bottomland hardwood forests.

Bottomland Hardwood Forests 

The 5,719 acres of mixed bottomland hardwoods on the Refuge consist of black willow, eastern cottonwood, overcup oak, cherrybark oak, willow oak, water oak, Nuttall oak, sugarberry, baldcypress, sweet pecan, bitter pecan, sweetgum, and green ash. Forest management practices are used in these areas to maintain optimal diversity of forest habitat for wildlife management purposes. Mast production in the bottomland hardwood habitats provides an important food source for a wide variety of wildlife, including migratory waterfowl, deer, squirrel, and turkey. During winter and spring months, backwaters typically flood thousands of acres of bottomland hardwoods, providing valuable waterfowl habitat. The Sunk Lake Public Use Natural Area contains 1,466 acres of bottomland hardwood forest with similar species composition. No forest management practices are performed on the Sunk Lake forest.

25 million acres of bottomland hardwood forests once dominated the Lower Mississippi Aluvial Valley.  Today, over 95% of this important wetland habitat has been cleared for agriculture and other purposes.   Due to the previous destruction of bottomland hardwood forests, the Hatchie NWR plants corn to replace the valuable acorns that were once an essential food in our area for migratory waterfowl.  

Click next to learn more about our farming techniques.  


Agricultural crops play an important role in the scheme of migratory bird management, as they provide a source of high-energy carbohydrates needed during periods of cold weather.  Typically, refuges rotate crops and moist soils to ensure a readily available source of food for wildlife, and to meet refuge objectives set forth in the West Tennessee National Wildlife Refuges Conservation Plan.  Acreage varies from year to year, based on management needs.  These crops are left standing in the fields and provide supplemental forage for resident and migratory wildlife, specifically migratory waterfowl. 

 The refuges' farming program will continue to address the lack of habitat issues that affect migratory bird populations.