Resource Management

A Great Blue Heron with soft gray plumage flies with neck and legs outstretched.  Photo by Steve Hillebrand, USFWS

Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge is largely comprised of a reservoir and potholes, providing habitat for abundant waterfowl and other birds dependent on water.

A Refuge and Breeding Ground for Native Birds

Established among the prairie potholes of the Mission Valley to be “….a refuge and breeding grounds for native birds”, Ninepipe NWR provides excellent breeding and staging habitat for abundant waterfowl and other water birds. Service staff conduct surveys of waterfowl with spring pair counts (to get an idea of how many nests there may be) and summer brood counts (to determine number of surviving young per nest). Other water birds, such as great blue herons (pictured above), terns, shorebirds, and migratory birds of all kinds find the Refuge to be a good home.  

Follow the link to the Bird Checklist for Ninepipe NWR

Water Resources

The reservoir at the core of Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge contains about 1,672 surface acres at full pool level. The only Service influence of water levels comes through cooperation with the Flathead Irrigation Project. In the case of conflicts, wildlife becomes secondary to irrigation needs due to wording in the 1921 Executive Order. However, the water regime for irrigation has generally benefitted wildlife at Ninepipe NWR. In particular, the refuge has become an important breeding and staging area for a large portion of the Flathead Valley Canada goose population, a western grebe nesting colony, a large great blue heron colony, a double-crested cormorant colony, and a variety of ducks and numerous species of other marsh and water birds.

Invasive Nonative Plants

Violet purple spikes of flowers atop purple loosestrife, an invasive non-native plant of wetlands. Photo by Todd Harless, USFWS

Intrusions of non-native plants bring about varying degrees of threat to this wetland habitat. In addition to the desirability for control of exotics, it is also required by Montana Law. Refuge staff are diligent in the monitoring of noxious weeds, using Integrated Pest Management (IPM) to control such non-native plants as yellow flag iris, purple loosestrife, whitetop and spotted knapweed. IPM includes of a variety of control methods fitted to the plant, the season and the surrounding habitat and consists of herbicides, mowing, hand pulling, and biological control. Biological control using insects have been part of this IPM since 1948. Control insects are chosen to reduce vigor of selected weed species and are extensively tested to assure they will not harm any other plants. Sometime more than one method is used, such as mowing a plant while it is in bloom (to control seed production), then spraying in the fall when it may be more vulnerable to the herbicide.

Visual Resources

The unique geological history of this area has created areas of sharp relief and contrast resulting in 10,000 foot mountain peaks which rise up from the valley floor in a 7,500 foot abrupt wall. The Mission Mountains, with their snowy peaks, create a backdrop of extraordinary beauty for the wetlands of Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge. The Refuge offers a magnificent visual diversity as well as a diversity of habitats and wildlife.

Long view of the snow-capped Mission Mountains, a sharp-peaked, glacially-carved mountain range to the east of the Bison Range.  Photo by Pat Jamieson, NBR/USFWS