The primary purposes of Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge are to conserve the wetlands that comprise the entire refuge and the wildlife that resides in those wetlands, and to serve as an inviolate sanctuary for migratory birds.
Part of that conservation is protecting the refuge resources with law enforcement efforts and adequate preparation for wildfires by maintaining firebreaks, fire-fighting equipment, and a well-trained staff of firefighters. The active conservation revolves around prescribed burning in marshes and pine forests to mimic natural fire cycles, but conduct the burns under controlled conditions. The fires not only maintain habitat in optimum condition for all species of wildlife, but protect local towns and highways from fire and smoke.
The staff manages moist soil vegetation management units by managing water levels, monitoring the vegetation, and disturbing the vegetation in an appropriate manner to ensure that it meets the needs of waterfowl, shorebirds, and wading birds. The cropland is maintained by cooperative farmers who leave part of their crop in the field for wildlife. Most of the refuge is wetland pocosin or forest habitat that is not actively managed, but provides adequate habitat without intensive management.