Resource Management

Fish and Wildlife Service staff burn a portion of Crow Waterfowl Production Area to improve grassland habitat for birds and wildlife.  NBR staff photo

The Lake County units of the Northwest Montana Wetland Management District are scattered throughout the Mission Valley among Montana State Wildlife Management Areas, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal trust lands, National Wildlife Refuges, and over 6,300 acres of conservation easements. This makes for a very large, contiguous expanse of wildlife habitat.

To help plants and wildlife, refuge staff uses a variety of habitat management techniques to maintain, recover or enhance plant and wildlife values. Refuge staff carefully considers any management techniques and employ them in varying degrees according to the situation. The photo above shows Fish and Wildlife Service staff burning a portion of the Crow Waterfowl Production Area to improve grassland habitat for birds (National Bison Range photo).


A Refuge and Breeding Ground for Native Birds

Established among the prairie potholes of the Mission Valley, the Lake County units of the Northwest Montana Wetland Management District provides excellent breeding and staging habitat for abundant waterfowl and other water birds, such as great blue herons, terns, and shorebirds. The uplands become important areas for ground nesting birds, including the state bird of Montana, the western meadowlark.

Close up of a long billed curlew, a large shorebird with brown and tan speckled feathers, long legs and an extremely long, down curved bill.  Photo by Robert Burton, USFWS

Currently the Montana Bird Conservation Partnership (MBCP) has started an initiative to monitor Long-billed curlews in the Mission Valley (see photo above).  You can get more information and record sightings of this largest of shorebirds by following the link to the MBCP website.     



Invasive Non-Native Plants

Service staff work to keep the wetlands and grasslands healthy and productive. Intrusions of non-native plants bring about varying degrees of threat. In addition to the desirability for control of exotics, it is also required by Montana Law. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is used 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. Often 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.  

 
 
 A prescribed burn takes place on a Waterfowl Production Area, with flames behind a WPA boundary sign.  NBRC staff photo 

Fire Program

Fish and Wildlife Service staff used prescribed fire to burn portions of the Waterfowl Production Areas to improve grassland habitat for birds and wildlife. Fire can provide variety of vegetative growth by thinning out thick areas and encouraging growth of desirable plants. It is also used as a way to control non-native noxious weeds, with reseeding of native species, particularly native grasses such as rough fescue and Idaho fescue, after a fire in an attempt to give desirable plants an edge.    

 

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. These mountains, with their snowy peaks, create a backdrop of extraordinary beauty for the wetlands of the Mission Valley. The Waterfowl Production Areas offer 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 extending all along the east side of the Mission Valley.  Photo by Pat Jamieson, NBR/USFWS