What We Do

Resource management is one of the number one conservation focuses on the refuge. This ranges from the management of rare habitat types to wildlife population surveys and designated sanctuary areas.

Management Techniques

To help plants and wildlife, refuge staff uses a variety of habitat management techniques to maintain, recover or enhance plant and wildlife values. Refuge staff carefully considers any management techniques and employ them in varying degrees according to the situation.  

Water levels are carefully monitored and controlled to foster desired plant growth. Sometimes, sensitive areas are closed to the public so that the land can recover more quickly.   Prescribed burning, mowing, and seeding are also some of the techniques used to help native plants recover on national wildlife refuges.

Standardized ground and aerial wildlife surveys and vegetation surveys are conducted on some refuges throughout the year to inventory populations and document habitat use. Units are evaluated by how well they met habitat and wildlife use objectives. 

Rare Habitats

At Ankeny NWR, carefully evaluated management techniques are vital due to the rare habitats found here. For example, prairie habitat was once the most widespread type in the Willamette Valley, now very little of this area is left intact. Prairie habitat supports birds such as the western meadowlark and Oregon vesper sparrow, as well as the recently listed streaked horned lark which is now designated as a threatened species. Several threatened and endangered plant species plant species can also be found there. 

Management and Conservation

Habitat Management

Prescribed Burning 

The Willamette Valley National Wildlife Refuge Complex (NWRC) has an active prescribed burning program. The objectives of these burns are to restore and maintain native prairies and oak savannas, enhance populations of threatened and endangered species, improve food crops for Canada geese, and reduce the risks for severe wildfire. Most burning takes place in the late summer or early fall.

Agricultural lands

Through cooperative agreements with local farmers, refuge fields are planted to grow ryegrass, fescue, corn, and pasture mixes. These crops are the preferred food for wintering Canada geese. During the winter months thousands of geese feed on the crops planted by farmers. These farming operations help reduce off-refuge crop damage by migratory birds.

Weed Control

Control of non-native, invasive weeds is an important management operation. Weeds present the single most significant threat to native plant communities and rare species. The refuge uses a combination of mowing, burning, slashing, hand pulling and herbicides to keep weeds in check.

Prairie Restoration

Throughout the refuges, former croplands are in different stages of being restored to native habitats. This process, which takes a number of years, includes clean-up of the fields of weeds and residual crops, site preparation for planting of native species and maintenance of the developing habitats.

The refuges are actively restoring both wetland and upland prairies and are working to enhance existing prairies that have been invaded by shrubs and small trees. The woody vegetation is cut and piled off-site where it is burned. Most treatment areas are selected to provide benefits to threatened and endangered plant species.  

Water Management

Seasonally flooded wetlands require continual management to produce plants favored by waterfowl and other water-birds. Water levels are usually “stage-flooded” in the fall and winter using water control structures that allow variable levels. This helps maximize the food availability for migrating waterfowl. Managed levels are also important in the spring to prevent the establishment of undesirable non-native plants, like reed canary-grass. In the summer, most managed impoundments are dry, a natural cycle that native plants have adapted to.

Managing for Geese

The Willamette Valley Refuges provide migrating Canada geese with what they need to survive during the fall and winter and make the trek back to Alaska in the spring. To prepare for the spring flight and subsequent nesting period, geese need food, water, and sanctuary.  All of these items are provided on the Willamette Valley Refuges where thousands of geese spend the winter.

Food

Under cooperative agreements with local farmers, fields are planted in the spring with nutritious grasses preferred by geese, such as ryegrass, fescue, corn and pasture mixes. Farmers are responsible for all maintenance and care of the crop during the growing season and in the summer they benefit from the harvest of these Refuge fields. The baled hay is generally used as feed for livestock, and once the farmers have harvested, the remaining stubs of grass are left to grow again.

In early fall these stubs start to green up as the fall rains provide necessary water to jumpstart their second growth. As the crops grow the geese are returning to the Refuge where they begin to appear in large numbers on the Refuge fields. Exhausted from their long flight south, the geese can then replenish their energy reserves on these nutritious greens.

By providing the geese with high quality food, the amount of off-Refuge crop depredation is reduced, thus benefiting not only the birds, but also the surrounding private lands.

Water

The Willamette Valley was once a vast wetland during the winter months due to flooding of the Willamette River and its tributaries. Since European settlement, dams have been built and fields have been drained and tiled for crop production. The number of wetlands and wet prairies in the Valley have dramatically declined, resulting in smaller areas suitable for the geese.

Geese need water for resting and foraging habitat. The Willamette Valley Refuges have wetlands and wet prairies that provide both food and resting areas for wintering geese. Many Refuge wetlands occur naturally, while dikes and levees impound water to create others.

Seasonally flooded wetlands require continual management to produce plants favored by wintering waterfowl. Water levels are usually “stage-flooded” in the fall and winter using water control structures that allow for variable water levels. This helps maximize the food availability for migrating waterfowl including Canada geese.

Water levels are also important in the spring to prevent the establishment of undesirable non-native plants. In the summer, most impoundments are dry--a natural cycle that native plants have adapted to.

Sanctuary

Wintering waterfowl start to arrive on the Willamette Valley Refuges in early fall and stay until early spring. During this time the Refuges close the interior sections to public use to provide undisturbed habitat for the wintering waterfowl.

By resting in undisturbed areas on the refuges, wintering geese replenish their energy reserves required for migrating and nesting. The birds are able to browse Refuge fields, and forage and rest in the wetlands without being disturbed. This undisturbed sanctuary also makes the Refuge preferable to the geese than surrounding private lands, which serves to further prevent unwanted crop depredation.

Conservation

Comprehensive Conservation Plan

A conservation and management plan for Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge was completed in 2011. The plan, known as a “comprehensive conservation plan” (CCP) was written for all three refuges in the Willamette Valley Refuge Complex (Ankeny, Baskett Slough, and W.L. Finley). The purpose of a CCP is to specify a management direction for the Refuge for the next 15 years. The goals, objectives, and strategies for improving Refuge conditions—including the habitat and public use facilities we will provide, partnership opportunities, and management actions needed to achieve desired conditions – are described in the CCP.

National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act

For almost a century, the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System had been managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under a variety of laws without an "Organic Act" or comprehensive legislation spelling out how it ought to be managed and used by the public. On October 9, 1997, President Clinton signed the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997 (Public Law 105-57). The Act amends the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966 in a manner that provides an “Organic Act” for the Refuge System.

National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997: The NWRS Improvement Act defines a unifying mission for all refuges, including a process for determining compatible uses on refuges, and requiring that each refuge be managed according to a CCP. The NWRS Improvement  Act expressly states that wildlife conservation is the priority of System lands and that the Secretary shall ensure that the biological integrity, diversity, and environmental health of refuge lands are maintained. Each refuge must be managed to fulfill the specific purposes for which the refuge was established and the System mission. The first priority of each refuge is to conserve, manage, and if needed, restore fish and wildlife populations and habitats according to its purpose.

The Act was passed to ensure that the Refuge System is managed as a national system of related lands, waters, and interests for the protection and conservation of our Nation's wildlife resources.

The only system of Federal lands devoted specifically to wildlife, the National Wildlife Refuge System is a network of diverse and strategically located habitats. More than 545 national wildlife refuges and thousands of waterfowl production areas across the United States teem with millions of migratory birds, serve as havens for hundreds of endangered species, and host an enormous variety of other plants and animals. Over 39 million people visit units of the National Wildlife Refuge System each year to enjoy a wide range of wildlife related recreational opportunities.

The passage of this Act gave guidance to the Secretary of the Interior for the overall management of the Refuge System. The Act's main components include:

  • a strong and singular wildlife conservation Mission for the Refuge System;
  • a requirement that the Secretary of the Interior maintain the biological integrity, diversity and environmental health of the Refuge System;
  • a new process for determining compatible uses on refuges;
  • a recognition that wildlife-dependent recreational uses involving hunting, fishing, wildlife observation and photography, and environmental education and interpretation, when determined to be compatible, are legitimate and appropriate public uses of the Refuge System;
  • that these compatible wildlife-dependent recreational uses are the priority general public uses of the Refuge System; and
  • a requirement for preparing a comprehensive conservation plan for each refuge.

Our Services

Frog Pond Photography Blind

One photo blind is available by reservation to the general public.  It is located near Jefferson at Ankeny NWR off Wintel Road on Frog Pond.   The best time of year to photograph wildlife on the Refuges is generally from November through April.  Wading birds, ducks, geese, and raptors are usually present in large numbers throughout the winter.  Other resident wildlife includes beaver, black tail deer, coyote, and squirrels.  All seasons will provide a wide variety of opportunities for nature photography enthusiasts.

Making Reservation

  • By web, phone or email: Advance reservations are accepted by sending an email to willamettevalley@fws.gov, by mailing a written request to the refuge at the address below, or by calling during normal business hours. Include your name, address, phone number, email address, number of people in your party and the date(s) and time(s) you wish to schedule. If corresponding by email, please enter “Wildlife Photo Blind” in the subject line.
  • Reservations should be made no later than two business days prior to requested date. You must receive confirmation of your reservation prior to using the blind.
  • Refuge staff will notify you by email to confirm your reservation. Print this confirmation and leave on dashboard of vehicle at trail head on the reserved day. If the date you have requested is unavailable, you will be given the option to choose another date.
  • The blind is available year-round, subject to the following provisions: 
    • Reservations required during the winter closure season October 1 – March 31 at Ankeny NWR.
    • The blind is available for use without reservations during the remainder of the year. However, other visitors may be encountered in the general vicinity of the blind during this time.
  • Reservations are for the entire day. The blind may be accessed during normal refuge hours, which are sunrise until sunset.
  • Walk-up reservations may be made during normal business hours, if the blinds are available. All reservations are handled out of William L. Finley NWR headquarters, just south of Corvallis off Hwy. 99W. Office hours are Monday through Friday from 8am until 4pm. The office is closed on Federal holidays.
  • Please contact the refuge if you must cancel your reservation, so that others may schedule the blind.
  • Reservations are taken on a first-come, first-served basis. Up to 4 advance reservations can be made up to two months ahead of time.
  • You may schedule only 2 weekend days in any given month.
  • There is no charge to use the blind. However donations for maintenance are appreciated and may be made to the Friends of Willamette Valley NWR Complex, PO Box 2238, Corvallis, OR 97339.

Using the Blind

  • All refuge regulations must be observed.
  • Walking only—no jogging, driving, or bicycling. Pets are not allowed on refuge trails. By following these regulations, you will minimize wildlife disturbance and maximize your wildlife photography opportunities.
  • During winter closure season, no off-trail use is allowed. Photographers must use the established trails to access the blind.
  • Staff, volunteers, or other persons may need access to the general area of the blind. We will try to minimize our impact as much as possible to the photographer.
  • The blind is not handicap accessible. Please contact the refuge if assistance is required.
  • There are no restrooms along the trail. Please plan accordingly. If you take a break, please leave and return to the blind quietly to minimize wildlife disturbance.
  • The blind is built to comfortably accommodate two persons. Chairs are not provided.
  • Smoking is not permitted in the blind.
  • When exiting the blind, please secure door and all windows.

Additional Information

  • Access: Park in designated parking lot north of Wintel Road and east of Pintail Marsh Parking Lot and walk a short distance along the base of the dike to the rear access door of the blind.
  • The Refuge reserves the right to revoke photography privileges. Anyone found to be in violation of any conditions in these guidelines will have their photography blind privileges immediately revoked and will be asked to leave the area.
  • Checklist of helpful items to bring to the blind:
    • Flashlight
    • Binoculars
    • Field guides
    • Bean bag camera rest/tripod
    • Clothes appropriate for season
    • Insect repellent
    • Food, snacks, water
    • Bag for garbage (pack it in, pack it out)
  • Please leave the area and the blind the way you found it.
  • Enjoy your day!

Law Enforcement

Law enforcement (LE) is essential to virtually every aspect of wildlife conservation. Refuge Law Enforcement not only plays a big role in protecting wildlife, but also works to promote awareness of wildlife laws and protection through collaboration with refuge Visitor Services staff.

USFWS Law Enforcement's mission is to protect wildlife resources. Through the effective enforcement of Federal laws, Law Enforcement (LE) contribute to Fish and Wildlife Service efforts to recover endangered species, conserve migratory birds, preserve wildlife habitat, safeguard fisheries, combat invasive species invasive species
An invasive species is any plant or animal that has spread or been introduced into a new area where they are, or could, cause harm to the environment, economy, or human, animal, or plant health. Their unwelcome presence can destroy ecosystems and cost millions of dollars.

Learn more about invasive species
, and promote international wildlife conservation. Service LE focus on potentially devastating threats to wildlife resources – illegal trade, unlawful commercial exploitation, habitat destruction, and environmental hazards. 

Laws and Regulations

There are lots of fun, interesting, and educational things you can do on the refuge. Keep in mind, if an activity is not wildlife related and doesn’t help in the protection or understanding of wildlife or their habitat, there are probably refuge rules governing this activity. Please check with the refuge management before participating in an activity that could harm the environment or yourself. There are plenty of activities on Ankeny for you to enjoy. Be safe and have fun!