Resource Management

Refuge student employee treating invasive musk thistle / L. Wilkins, USFWS

Providing grain, green browse, and roosting habitat for wintering and migratory waterfowl has been the primary management objective at Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge since its establishment in 1965.

Farming for Wildlife 
Of the 440 acres of land designated as crop fields, approximately 250 acres are irrigated and planted in winter wheat, barley, native grasses and triticale each year.  One factor that dictates the types of crops and amount of acreage that can be cultivated is the availability of irrigation water. Annual precipitation can be unpredictable and quite low some years, resulting in drought conditions. 

Short-grass Prairie Restoration 
Habitat restoration is focused on implementing a variety of management practices including prescribed burning, mowing, and re-seeding to restore native grasslands.  The control of invasive and non-native plants such as Canada thistle, musk thistle, hoary cress, Siberian elm and salt cedar are a priority.  The effort to reclaim native habitat and restore species diversity is an ongoing and thorny challenge.

Management Techniques
To reach management goals, the refuge uses a variety of habitat management techniques to maintain, recover or enhance plant and wildlife values.  Refuge staff carefully consider various techniques and employ them in varying degrees according to the situation.  Sometimes, sensitive areas are closed to the public so that the land can recover more quickly. 

Standardized wildlife and vegetation surveys are conducted throughout the year to inventory populations and document habitat use.  Units are evaluated by how well they met habitat and wildlife use objectives.