Resource Management

Prescribed burn on the refuge / Jude Smith, USFWS

Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge utilizes various tools and actively manages these lands for the benefit of wildlife.

Prescription for the Landscape
For thousands of years, the refuge’s landscape evolved with grazing by bison and occasional lightning strikes on the short grass prairie. To mimic what used to occur naturally, the refuge now uses cattle to graze the native grasses keeping them vibrant and diverse and conducts prescribed burns to remove dead plant material. Without grazing, the build-up of dead plants would prevent the growth of new vegetation and ultimately a loss of plant diversity. Without fire, the possibility of catastrophic wild fires would be much greater due to the build-up of fuels. Not only would fires be more dangerous and difficult to control, they could cause long-term damage to the soil and plants that are not adapted to intense heat.

Protecting Native Species
Salt cedar is an exotic plant that grows quickly and crowds out other plants. It can consume up to 200 gallons of water a day causing playa lakes, underground aquifers, wetlands and streams to dry up. Because it did not evolve here, salt cedar has no natural predators and must be treated mechanically. The refuge aggressively treats these non-native trees by treating them chemically and removing from the landscape using fire and mechanical treatments. Since 2004, one spring has recovered and its water flows year round as a result of removing the non-native tree. The refuge closely monitors this exotic/invasive tree and is treating numerous other springs. To help other land managers address this challenge, the refuge works with the “Partners For Fish and Wildlife” program to help ranchers and private landowners address salt cedar infestations near water sources.

Studying the Birds
Muleshoe actively bands ducks and doves on the refuge. This is a cooperative project done with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Migratory Birds Program and the State of Texas. Dove banding focuses on birds that summer on the refuge and the gathering of important information on production of birds, their migratory routes, and their fidelity to breeding sites.

Duck banding is conducted in the late winter and early spring. All trapped ducks are banded and biological information is collected to determine health. Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge has one of the longest standing banding permits in the nation with thousands of ducks banded on the refuge in the last 50 years. Duck band returns provide information that helps the U.S. Fish and Wildlife determine habitat needs and management issues affecting waterfowl and other migratory birds.