The official brown sign stands at the boundary of Kickinghorse Waterfowl Production Area with grasslands and the snow-capped Mission Mountains in the background.  National Bison Range Photo.

These are the most commonly asked questions. But if you can’t find your answer here, feel free to contact us by following this link to our Contact Page.

  • What is a WPA? What is a WMD?

    The official green and white Waterfowl Production Area sign depicting a green version of the National Wildlife Refuge “blue goose” symbol.  USFWS

    WPA is the abbreviation for Waterfowl Production Area. When grouped together, they make up a Wetland Management District – WMD.

    Waterfowl Production Areas preserve wetlands and grasslands critical to waterfowl and other wildlife and provide vital breeding and nesting habitat to millions of waterfowl. When Congress amended the Duck Stamp Act in 1958, it authorized the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to use money from the sale of the Federal Duck Stamp to begin buying small wetland areas to preserve waterfowl habitat.

    Also part of Wetland Management Districts, wetland easements are perpetual contracts with willing private landowners who protect their wetlands from draining and filling with soil. The Service also purchases grassland easements to provide permanent grassland cover around wetlands to meet the needs of upland nesting waterfowl and other wildlife.

    Although Waterfowl Production Areas, easements, and National Wildlife Refuges account for less than 2 percent of the landscape in the prairie pothole region states, they are responsible for producing nearly 23 percent of this area’s waterfowl. That is why working with private landowners through voluntary partnerships to enhance wetlands is so critical to protecting waterfowl. 

    Follow the link to the Fact Sheet about WPA’s.

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  • What can I do on the WPAs?

    By law, waterfowl production areas are open to hunting, fishing, and trapping. Other important wildlife-dependent uses include wildlife observation, photography, and environmental education. 

    Outstanding opportunities are available for hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, photography, and environmental education. Hiking, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing are also permitted on the WPAs. Please be mindful of regulations and comply with all posted signs.

  • May I hunt the WPAs?

    Shotgun barrel of duck hunter showing over long grass around a pond with ducks.  Photo by Ryan Hagerty, USFWS

    Hunting, fishing, and trapping are permitted in accordance with Joint State and Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) Tribal Law. Only the hunting of waterfowl (ducks and geese) and upland game bird (pheasant and gray partridge) are allowed. Please refer to the Hunting Page for details and links to rules and regulations.

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  • How can I access the WPAs?

    The WPAs are open year round to public access. No motorized vehicles are allowed. Refer to the Public Use Opportunities pamphlet for a map of locations of the nine WPAs located in Lake County.

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  • Can I take my dogs on the WPAs?

    Pets must be on a leash and under control from April 1 to August 31. Pets must be under the owner’s immediate control at all other times of the year, such as for flushing, pointing, or retrieving birds.

  • When is the best time to see migrating birds?

    A lesser yellowlegs stands reflected in shallow water. This long-billed, long-legged shorebird has a light belly and a brown back with spots.  And, of course, its namesake yellow legs.  Photo by Steve Hillebrand, USFWS.

    The Mission Valley is on the edge of the Pacific Flyway, and the Central Flyway is over the Continental Divide to the east so we don’t tend to see large migrating flocks coming through the valley. Waterfowl numbers vary through the year, with major concentrations occurring in spring and fall. Spring migration is at a peak from late March to early May. Fall populations often peak in early October to late November. The birds seem to come in waves – such as a flock of 100 tundra swans for a few days before they move on, then the next week it might be the western grebes, then redheads, then coots, and so on. So while we might not see very large numbers of birds during migration , we do get a wide variety.

    For more information, follow the link the the Birding Page.  

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  • How do I get information about the Flathead County Units of the Northwest Montana Wetland Management District?

    While access, rules and regulations are similar to the Lake County Units, there are some differences for the five units in Flathead County. Refer to its separate website, which will include a map as well as other information.

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