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Resource Management

Rx_Fire_512x219To help plants and wildlife, Medicine Lake National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) staff use a variety of habitat management techniques to maintain, recover, and enhance plants and wildlife. Refuge staff carefully consider different management techniques and the most effective ways to use them.

Prescribed Fire


Medicine Lake NWR staff use controlled burns, or prescribed fire, in certain situations to manage lands on the Refuge. Prescribed fires are ignited by trained wildland fire firefighters to meet specific management objectives. On average, nearly 3,500 acres are treated each year at Medicine Lake NWR. The majority of prescribed fires at Medicine Lake NWR are conducted from March through the beginning of May; however, burning occurs throughout the year depending on weather conditions and project objectives. The habitat management goals being met through use of fire as a land management practice include:

  • Goal One: Maintain a healthy and diverse variety of habitats for waterfowl and other migratory birds for nesting and brood rearing.
  • Goal Two: To preserve, restore, and enhance a natural diversity of flora and fauna, representative of a healthy ecosystem, which will provide for the life requirements of resident wildlife.
  • Goal Three: Reduce hazardous fuel loads of dead plant material in an effort to limit the number of unwanted fires, specifically those fires 300 acres or larger.
  • Goal Four: Heighten awareness and understanding of people's role in the natural world and promote a sense of stewardship for the land and wildlife resources.
  • Goal Five: Preserve, restore, and enhance Federal- and State-listed threatened and endangered species and the habitats upon which they depend.

More Information


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Fire Management Mountain-Prairie Region

Refuge Weather Information

Current Refuge Weather

National Interagency Fire Center



Prescribed Grazing


In general, prairies thrive under occasional grazing and fire. Native prairies evolved alongside the animals that eat them. Historic grazing by bison, elk, and other herbivores actually helped maintain healthy and diverse prairies.

Without the natural disturbances of grazing and fire, prairie grasslands become poor quality wildlife habitat and will be dominated by aggressive, often non-native species. An example of such a non-native species is crested wheatgrass, a plant native to Siberia. As crested wheatgrass spreads from roads and other sites, it competes with and replaces many native plants. This cool-season grass eventually out-competes the native grasses because it grows earlier in the spring than native grasses. However, when Refuge staff use a rotational grazing system to manage grasslands on the Refuge, the grazing helps address the timing and duration needed to manage this and other non-native plant species. Domestic livestock, including cattle and sheep, can mimic the effects of native grazers. Grazing crested wheatgrass in early spring, before native plants are actively growing, can improve the likelihood of maintaining healthy native grasslands.

Another important factor of grazing is that in large pasture lands, livestock graze in a "patchy" manner. Some areas will be heavily grazed, while others will only be moderately or lightly grazed.  Some areas will remain ungrazed. This is good for the biodiversity across the landscape because it creates patchy vegetation communities. In turn, this provides a wide range of homes for a variety of wildlife.

Last Updated: Jan 13, 2015
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