Wildlife & Habitat

Birds landing in a marsh

The Rainwater Basin is located within both the tall and mixed grass ecosystems.  Flora and fauna that historically existed in the area were the product of natural ecological processes: wildfire, grazing, drought, and flooding.  Agricultural development in the early 1900's used a variety of techniques to convert large, flat wetlands into crop production.  Techniques included digging drainage ditches, building dikes or berms around wetlands, digging deep pits to concentrate the water, and diverting runoff down road ditches to pits or streams.

From the late 1960's to the mid 1990's, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service focused its activity on acquiring wetlands with restoration being limited to planting only five species of native grasses (big bluestem, Indiangrass, little bluestem, sideoats grama, and switchgrass) on the farmed uplands.  Today those five species of native grasses has expanded to over 140 species.

  • Waterfowl Production Areas


    Waterfowl Production Areas or WPAs consist of wetlands and uplands. Wetlands play an important part in our ecosystem by providing essential food sources for migrating waterfowl such as mallards, pintails, and geese; and shorebirds such as plovers, sandpipers, and avocets. Upland habitat provide vital food sources and shelter year round for upland birds such as pheasants, quail and prairie chickens. Mammals such as white-tailed deer and black tailed prairie dogs also utilize these plains oases.

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  • Plant Diversity


    The term high diversity seeding includes harvesting, processing and sowing large numbers of native species in an attempt to return the plant community as close as possible to its pre-cultivation condition. The term restoration has often been used to describe this same process, but restoring a grassland is not as simple as planting a few native plants.  

    Our objective is to manage uplands for warm season, grass-dominated (big bluestem in the eastern portion, and little bluestem in the western portion) plant communities with a diverse mix of other cool- and warm-season grasses, sedges, rushes, and broadleaf forbs.

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