Resource Management

Water Management

Toppenish National Wildlife Refuge is a highly manipulated landscape, designed and managed to provide the maximum benefit for migratory birds. The FWS is always busy with construction and modification of our water management system.

To provide more for wildlife, FWS staff uses a variety of carefully chosen habitat management techniques to maintain, recover, or enhance habitat. Management practices are used to mimic and/or enhance natural processes, such as flooding and fire. Techniques such as water level manipulation, mowing and burning are used on the refuge.

Water level manipulation, a primary habitat management tool, is used to promote the diverse wetland plant growth that provides a variety of food and shelter choices for wildlife. Selected Toppenish National Wildlife Refuge marshes are flooded from September/October through May/June. Water from Toppenish Creek and delivered irrigation water, held on the refuge by a system of dikes and water control structures, are used to carefully flood the natural wetland basin. Deeper water areas offer a safe resting haven for many birds.

In late spring (May-June), water levels are gradually lowered by drawdown and/or evaporation. This develops a productive wetland habitat that best benefits migratory and wintering waterfowl and other wildlife by allowing germination of seed-bearing plants for food and cover.

Prescribed burning is used in a variety of ways on Toppenish National Wildlife Refuge. To keep open water areas from closing in, prescribed burning is used together with disking and plowing to inhibit the regrowth of plants, such as reed canarygrass which can quickly out-compete native plant species.

In uplands, fire invigorates grass nesting cover for waterfowl and other ground nesting birds. It also reduces brush and weed species, increases the amount of grasses and forbs, and creates green browse for migratory geese in both spring and fall.

Mowing, disking, seeding and the transplanting of native vegetation are additional management techniques used to make the refuge more attractive to migrating birds and resident wildlife.

A large portion of Toppenish National Wildlife Refuge wetlands have been restored to increase and enhance wetland resources. This multi-year effort required recontouring of wetland basins and the installation of new water control structures, delivery systems and low-level dikes. Land contouring restores the habitat to mimic natural, historic conditions, handle flood flows and have as much habitat edge and diversity as possible. This many-phased restoration project involved many partners, including Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Yakama Indian Nation, and others.