Wildlife and Habitat

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Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge was established under two pieces of enabling legislation, one part of the legislation tasked the refuge to mitigate losses of riverine and wetland habitat converted to deep water habitat behind Fontenelle and Flaming Gorge Dams, while also improving conditions for fish and wildlife and providing recreation opportunities.  The refuge encompasses a variety of habitats on the 26,382 acres surrounding 36 miles of the Green River.  Between wetland, riparian, upland and riverine habitats the refuge has over 222 species of birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles and fish that use the variety of available habitats.  

  • Wildlife

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    Wildlife is abundant on the Refuge, from aquatic insects, crayfish, cutthroat trout, and bald eagles to trumpeter swans, moose, otters, sage grouse and pronghorn antelope the refuge has a wide variety of animals.  Many animals are residents while others only stop over during migrations.  

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  • Habitat

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    Refuge habitat can be generalized into four major types, riverine, riparian, wetland, and upland.  These habitats are important because they provide food and shelter for wildlife.  Refuge staff actively manage and monitor habitat to ensure healthy habitats, especially for focal wildlife species, such as threatened or endangered species and trumpeter swans.

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  • Fire Management

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    Fire is an important part of many natural systems.  Prescribed fire is used within the Refuge System as a management tool on wetlands and habitat units to reduce litter build up and speed up nutrient cycling.  Fire can also be used as a system disturbance to possibly incite cottonwood trees to sprout through clonal regeneration. 

  • Cottonwood Restoration

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    Fontenelle Dam has altered the natural flows of the Green River.  As a result, the narrowleaf cottonwood gallery is getting older but lacking new growth of young trees.  The dam removes the sediment in the river and eliminates high flows which create the sand and gravel bars required for narrowleaf cottonwood seed germination.  The Refuge is working to plant trees and treat habitats to encourage new cottonwood growth to replace the fading cottonwood gallery on the Green River below Fontenelle Dam.

  • Rock Barbs and Tree Revetments

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    The Refuge is constantly working with Wyoming Game and Fish Dept, Trout Unlimited, Bureau of Reclamation, Bureau of Land Management and the Corps of Engineers to improve fish habitat through Seedskadee.  In 2010 and 2011 rock barbs were installed along two reaches of the river that were very fast moving and lacking in available cover for fish.  The barbs will provide habitat for fish.  Tree revetments were completed in three sections of the river during 2012 and 2013.  Conifers cut in cooperation with a BLM thinning project on Miller Mountain were used to line the banks of side channels to provide sediment deposition to aid in woody plant establishment and enhance juvenile fish habitat.  

  • Rock Sills in the River

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    Rock structures are built in the river stream bed to raise the water level of the river to push more water to side channels and irrigation ditches.  Side channels provide important spawning and juvenile fish rearing habitat.  Irrigation ditches on the Refuge supply water to wetlands and ponds that provide prime waterfowl habitat.  Wetlands with sustainable water levels are essential for trumpeter swan nesting and brood rearing.

  • Grazing Management

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    The term “prescribed grazing” has been used to describe the use of grazing as a habitat management tool on National Wildlife Refuges. It refers to using livestock (cattle, sheep, etc.) for a habitat management purpose under a “prescription” that specifies the number and type of livestock, what length of time and what time of year, and the size of the area to be grazed. Grazing on a National Wildlife Refuge can only be used to maintain, restore, and/or enhance wildlife habitats. Since we do not own livestock, we work with neighboring livestock owners to conduct the grazing management. A fee is set each year for an Animal Unit Month (AUM) in each state be based on the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Statistics Board publication for “Grazing Fee Rates for Cattle by Selected States and Regions”. Some deductions to the fee may be given for work such as building and removing temporary fences, weed control activities, or poor forage quality. The livestock operator’s objectives for grazing on a National Wildlife Refuge obviously differ and the overlap in conducting habitat management with raising pounds of livestock comes together in a mutually beneficial partnership. Short-term impacts from grazing of vegetation by livestock and associated hoof impacts to plants root systems can be beneficial under a grazing prescription. For example, grazing heavy stands of cattails and hardstem bulrush at Seedskadee NWR during the winter, instead of the growing season, may improve livestock access to vegetation, to help open up thick stands to create more open water and available habitat for migrating and resident waterfowl and shorebirds. The winter grazing versus spring or summer season grazing will eliminate disturbance to nesting trumpeter swans. The following spring more shallow water will be available for species such as dabbling ducks, shorebirds, and amphibians. Species utilizing residual cover from previous year’s growth, such as marsh wrens and common yellow throats, may show a decrease in use for a year or two after the grazing treatment, but will return to these areas after regrowth occurs. Species that prefer shorter vegetation or the new green growth or other food resources that result from the grazing treatment will increase use of the treated sites for a year or more after the grazing treatment. Prescribed grazing can reduce invasive species in some situations when combined with other management techniques. Grazing must be managed to reduce, rather than increase, invasive plant establishment and spread. Ecologically based grazing prescriptions pay careful attention to overall plant community change, not just weedy species. Prescribed grazing may also have applications in creating disturbance in riparian areas to allow for narrow leaf cottonwood, willow, and other woody species to become established. Disturbance of riparian soils prior to natural seed release for these woody species may be needed to create the conditions necessary for seeds to germinate and then become established. Correct timing, amount of disturbance, and follow-up management, including the protection of established seedlings, is critical to success. These techniques are often applied in an adaptive management process, which allows for adjustments to be made as we learn more about what works and what does not.