About the District

A pair of white trumpeter swans swim in reflecting green water with their five gray cygnets.  Photo by Steve Hillebrand, USFWS

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) invites you to visit the Lake County Units of the Northwest Montana Wetland Management District. This part of the Wetland Management District is comprised of 9 Waterfowl Production Areas (WPAs) and the Conservation Easement Program. The Service purchased these lands to protect and restore waterfowl habitat. Ninety-eight percent of the revenue generated from the sale of Federal Duck Stamps is put back into purchasing WPAs for public hunting and recreation or to purchase conservation easements from landowners.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) invites you to visit the Lake County Units of the Northwest Montana Wetland Management District. This part of the Wetland Management District is comprised of 9 Waterfowl Production Areas (WPAs) and the Conservation Easement Program. The Service purchased these lands to protect and restore waterfowl habitat. Ninety-eight percent of the revenue generated from the sale of Federal Duck Stamps is put back into purchasing WPAs for public hunting and recreation or to purchase conservation easements from landowners.

Nestled in the Mission Valley of Lake County Montana are 9 of these WPAs and 6,300 acres of conservation easements. These WPAs are located within the Flathead Indian Reservation and are part of the National Wildlife Refuge System – an extensive network of lands set aside for specifically for wildlife. The Service works with neighboring land managers, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) and the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (MTFWP), to manage these WPAs as part of a larger wetland and upland vegetation community.

Historic glacial activity in the Mission Valley created a rolling terrain of intermountain grasslands on the valley floor interspersed with many small wetlands called kettles. These kettles were formed from melting glacial ice and are of enormous value to many wildlife species. Even within this rich and productive environment, these Refuges provide unique benefits to wildlife by being among the few places in the valley where hunting, fishing, wildlife dependent recreation and conservation are the driving priorities.

WPAs are managed to attract and produce migratory waterfowl, migratory non-game birds and resident wildlife. The most common management tools used include grazing, haying and prescribed burning, which are followed by a period of rest. Working with local ranchers, cattle are allowed to graze on certain WPAs using a permit system. This grazing closely mimics the effects native bison provided to stimulate plant growth. Prescribed fires are used to rejuvenate grasslands. These controlled burns mimic the prairie wildfires of long ago to stimulate native grasses and reduce invasive species.

Another tool available is haying which involves cutting and removing grass for later use by livestock. To protect the ground nesting birds, haying is only allowed after July 15, by which time most nesting has been completed.

Lake County WPAs support an abundance of species and offer remarkable hunting, hiking, and birding opportunities. With the Mission Mountains to the east providing a dramatic backdrop, look for an abundant variety of waterfowl species, including trumpeter swans, Canada geese, mallards, and blue and green wing teal. Shore birds such as avocets, black-necked stilt, Wilson’s phalaropes, long-billed curlews, Wilson’s snipe, common sandpipers, and killdeer can also be seen. The grassland areas surrounding the wetlands provides important habitat for ring-necked pheasant, gray partridge, and nesting habitat for northern pygmy, northern sawhet, great horned, short and long-eared owls, savannah and song sparrows.

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

 

Accessibility Information

 

Equal opportunity to participate in and benefit from programs and activities of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is available to all individuals regardless of physical or mental ability. Dial 711 for a free connection to the State relay service for TTY and voice calls to and from the speech and hearing impaired. For information or to address accessibility needs, please contact the Refuge staff at (406) 644-2211, or the U.S. Department of the Interior, Office of Equal Opportunity, 1849 C Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20240.