What We Do

The National Wildlife Refuge System is a series of lands and waters owned and managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Wildlife conservation is at the heart of the refuge system. It drives everything we do from the purpose a refuge is established, to the recreational activities offered there, to the resource management tools we use. Selecting the right tools helps us ensure the survival of local plants and animals and helps fulfill the purpose of the refuge.

Management and Conservation

Wildlife is the first priority in the management of refuges. Therefore, the management tools we select to use are based on the best science available, and help ensure that ‘wildlife comes first’. The 4,000 acre designated Wilderness Area within Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge is the only portion of the refuge that is passively managed. For the other 57,000 plus acres of the refuge, our conservation toolbox includes: water management, prescribed fire, brush mowing and herbicide application.

Water Management

When the refuge was established in 1937, a system of dikes and water control structures were created to restore more than 25,000 acres of prairie wetlands which were drained in the early 1900s. Since the refuge establishment, 26 pools have been created which range in size from 100 to 10,000 acres. Water management creates a variety of wetland types with a mix of emergent (above the water) and submergent (below the water) plant communities. Refuge staff manipulate water levels to create different stages of marsh habitat. The presence or absence of water, water depth and seasonal timing can be changed to create different habitat conditions. Pools are periodically de-watered to mimic what the dynamic nature of natural prairie wetlands. Even in a “drawdown” condition, pools provide important habitat for certain birdlife. Exposed mudflats are a magnet for a diversity of migrant shorebird species and sandhill cranes. Reflooding of dry wetland basins results in a dramatic spike in wetland productivity (including plant and insect diversity) and is an important part of a healthy prairie wetland ecosystem.

Prescribed Fire

Natural and man-made peat fires formed many of the smaller wetland basins scattered throughout the refuge. Properly timed prescribed fire, in association with mowing, and/or chemical treatments, is a critical tool for maintaining diverse wetland and upland plant communities. Without fire and other disturbance, wetlands degrade to monotypic stands of exotic and hybrid cattail and grasslands and sedge meadows become overrun with willow and aspen. Ultimately, wildlife habitat value declines in both cases, as does the ability for natural ecosystem processes to occur as they did historically.

Law Enforcement

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service law enforcement officers have a wide variety of duties and responsibilities. Officers help visitors understand and obey wildlife protection laws. They work closely with state and local government offices to enforce federal, state and refuge hunting regulations that protect migratory birds and other game species from illegal take and preserve legitimate hunting opportunities.

Laws and Regulations

  • The auto tour drive and hiking trails are open from May through mid-October during daylight hours. Hiking is only allowed on the drive and designated hiking trails.
  • Off-road vehicles (including snowmobiles), open fires, camping, overnight parking and horseback riding are not allowed on the refuge.
  • Dogs and other pets must be leashed at all times.
  • For more specifics and a complete list of general refuge rules and regulations, consult the refuge public use brochure.
  • Hunting is an approved use on the refuge, some seasons are in accordance with state regulations; others have delayed openers and additional requirements. Please see the hunting brochure for specific details and regulations.