Habitat

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Seedskadee NWR is located in the high desert plains, also known as high elevation sagebrush steppe.  Annual precipitation for the area averages around six inches.  Native upland plant associations include sagebrush/grass, greasewood and shadscale.  Bottomland plant associations include wet meadow riparian types with willows and cottonwoods dominating the overstory.  Habitat on the Refuge can be separated into four broad types: riverine, wetlands (marsh and wet meadow), riparian (shrub and forested), and upland (sagebrush and mixed low stature shrublands)

  • Riverine

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    Area occupied by the active river channel that are directly and dramatically influenced by the seasonal hydrology of the Green River.  Riverine habitats are made up of two components denoting the presence or absence of flowing water.  Permanent water sites (1,254 acres) encompass only the active river channel and feature flowing water.  The remainder of the habitat (140 acres) is gravel bars, sandbars, mud flats, and other similar sites which occur within the active river channel, are not submerged, and which do not support permanent vegetation.  The river provides habitat for aquatic species, such as fish, crayfish, and aquatic insects.  Waterfowl, raptors, other birds such as gulls and shorebirds use riverine habitats as well.  Due to the influence of Fontenelle Dam, portions of the Green River remain ice-free, providing important wintering habitat for trumpeter swans, bald eagles, and waterfowl.

  • Wetland

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    Wetlands along the Green River within the Refuge boundary are created when water is held or flows through natural or man-made basins. Refuge staff may manage water levels to provide a variety of water depths. Birds such as trumpeter swans and ruddy ducks prefer deep water ponds for nesting and feeding, while migrating shorebirds such as American avocets, long-billed dowitchers, and a variety of sandpipers are attracted to shallow flooded mud flats to look for food. White-faced ibis, redheads, cinnamon teal, pied-billed grebes, sora rails, marsh wrens, yellow-headed blackbirds, and muskrat are all common in the wetlands.

    Approximately 1,115 acres of wetland habitat exists on the Refuge including open water, marshes, and wet meadows.  Wetland development and management has been the primary focus at Seedskadee NWR since its creation.  In the 1980s, approximately 300 acres of wetlands were created in the Hamp, Hawley, Lower Hawley, and Dunkle wetland management units.  Water from the Green River is diverted through a series of ditches to fill temporarily, seasonally and semi-permanently flooded wetlands which provide habitat for waterfowl, shorebirds, and other marsh dependent wildlife.  This flow-through system returns much of the diverted water back into the Green River.  

  • Riparian

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    Approximately 4,349 acres of riparian habitat (forest and shrub) exist on the Refuge.  The dominant plant species in this habitat are narrow-leaf cottonwood with an understory of shrubs and grasses.  Principal shrub species include: several willow species, Wood's rose, silver buffaloberry, silverberry, skunkbush, golden current, and gooseberry.  The riparian habitat type is found predominately along the Green River.  The Big Sandy River riparian corridor has no overstory tree habitat.

    Several wildlife species that depend on this habitat for breeding include: great blue heron, bald eagle, red-tailed hawk, Swainson's hawk, merlin, kestrel, common merganser, eastern kingbird, willow flycatcher, house wren, yellow warbler, Bullock's oriole, mountain bluebird, northern flicker, moose, beaver, river otter, masked shrew, water shrew, vagrant shrew, and the little brown myotis.  

    Riparian forests provide critical migrational and breeding habitat for approximately 150 bird species.  Forest breeding birds that winter in Central and South America are known as neotropical migrants.  Many neotropical migrants are not capable of migrating non-stop through the arid semi desert shrubland that predominates much of Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming.  Over 50 neotropical migrant species rely on the north-south riparian forest corridors of the Colorado and Green Rivers for feeding, resting or breeding.

  • Upland

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    Sagebrush uplands dominate the landscape away from the river. The Refuge is fenced to allow for prescribed grazing and to prevent livestock access from adjacent lands onto the Refuge when grazing has not been planned and permitted as a habitat management activity. Fenced water access lanes (also known as water gaps) are provided so that livestock on adjacent grazing allotments can reach the river for water without accessing the remainder of the Refuge. Species that depend on large expanses of healthy sagebrush grassland communities include the sage sparrow, sage thrasher, Brewer's sparrow, ferruginous hawk, pygmy rabbit, and pronghorn.  

    Approximately 19,212 acres of semi desert upland habitats exist on the Refuge.  These habitat types are generally characterized by varying vegetation communities interspersed with large areas of bare ground, desert pavement and rocks.  Special status species utilizing these habitat types include the mountain plover and the burrowing owl.  The burrowing owl was a former candidate for listing as endangered or threatened species.  Burrowing owls are uncommon and are often associated with areas that have burrows created by white-tailed prairie dogs or some other burrowing/digging species.  Mountain plovers are currently proposed for listing as a threatened species and utilize areas that are characterized by short vegetation interspersed with bareground.