What We Do
Wildlife conservation is at the heart of the National Wildlife Refuge System. It drives the management of all the lands and waters that are part of it, from the purposes for which a refuge is established, to the recreational activities offered, to the resource management tools used. Using conservation best practices, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees manage Refuge System lands and waters to help ensure the survival of native species.
Management and Conservation
Refuges use a host of scientifically sound management tools to address conservation challenges. These tools are all aimed at ensuring a balanced conservation approach to benefit both wildlife and people. At Arrowwood National Wildlife Refuge, our conservation toolbox includes water management, haying, grazing, fire management, management, inventory and monitoring, recreation management, and planning.
Water levels are carefully monitored and controlled to encourage desired plant growth. Water levels are raised and lowered to provide shallow water for feeding birds and mudflats where seed-producing plants germinate, and provide feeding habitat for shorebirds. Deeper waters provide habitat for submerged plants such as sago pondweed. Sego pondweed provides for invertebrates and fish and seeds and tubers for waterfowl.
Haying and Grazing
Haying and grazing are critical tools managers use to manage the grasslands. Refuge managers work together with local ranchers to mimic natural disturbances that were once caused by large prairie herds of free-ranging bison, antelope, and elk. Through haying and livestock grazing, invasive cool-season grasses and other invasive plants are stressed, which helps native grasses and forbs such as western wheatgrass, green needlegrass, blue grama, little bluestem, purple coneflowers, goldenrods and low-growing shrubs. Haying and grazing can greatly influence the structure and diversity of grassland communities, which in turn, create the variety of areas needed for nesting upland birds.
Controlled burns are often called prescribed fire because wildlife managers write a careful prescription of the weather conditions, equipment, and people necessary to safely conduct a burn that will have the desired ecological effect. Fire is used to help both wildlife and wildlife habitat - fire stimulates prairie plant growth, increases soil nutrients, and sets back the invading trees and other species not adapted to life on the prairie.
Prairie animals are also adapted to fire. During the actual fire, some animals go underground, while others simply fly or run away from the fire. Sometimes, birds lose their nests to fire, but native grassland species have an adaptation for this: they quickly build a new nest and lay a new clutch of eggs. So, while there is some short-term harm to some animals, these same species depend on fire for their survival because many prairie plants and animals cannot survive long if shrubs or trees take over grasslands.
Invasive Species Management
A number of introduced and invasive plant species are present throughout the Refuge, including leafy spurge, Canada thistle, smooth brome, houndstongue, Kentucky bluegrass, and absinth wormwood. Refuge staff use prescribed burning, haying, grazing, and biological control with insects to help native plant species compete with invasives. When the native species survive and thrive, they provide food and shelter for wildlife.
Inventory and Monitoring
Refuge staff conduct vegetation surveys annually on parts of the refuge to monitor habitat. Refuge vegetation was mapped during 2011-2013 to provide baseline data for monitoring changes over time. Various wildlife species populations are also monitored throughout the Refuge.
Eachwas established for a purpose. Refuge managers carefully evaluate recreation on refuges to minimize negative impacts on fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitat.
Planning is essential to ensure the refuge continues to serve the purpose(s) for which it was established. The National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997 requires that every refuge develop a Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) and revise it every 15 years, as needed. In addition to the CCP, refuge managers prepare a variety of step-down plans that guide management decisions and refuge activities.
Cooperative Agriculture, Haying, and Grazing
To better accomplish our grassland management objectives, we regularly utilize agricultural practices to manage and enhance habitat for wildlife. If you are interested in grazing livestock, harvesting hay, or cooperatively farming lands on Arrowwood National Wildlife Refuge, please contact Refuge Manager Paul Halko at (701) 285-3341 Ext. 102 or Paul_Halko@fws.gov.
Step inside our visitor center during normal business hours to learn more about our specific refuge. View the beautiful exhibits of native habitats and the wildlife that use them, visit our friendly staff, or use our public restroom.
Watchable Wildlife Area & Restroom
The outdoor Warbler Woodland Watchable Wildlife Area, located on the southeast side of Arrowwood Lake, is a popular wildlife viewing area and offers an outdoor public restroom. Over 20 species of warblers and numerous other songbird species have been observed in this woodland. Waterfowl and shorebirds can also be observed along the lakeshore in this vicinity.
Two grouse viewing blinds located adjacent to leks (the area where grouse congregate and display during mating season) offer great opportunities to view and capture the peculiar courtship rituals of sharp-tailed grouse from late March through early May. Blinds may be reserved by calling the refuge office during normal business hours.
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. Other duties include patrolling closed areas or wilderness areas, maintaining relationships with neighboring landowners, maintaining refuge boundaries and participating in public events related to refuge issues.
Laws and Regulations
Management actions on national wildlife refuges are bound by many mandates including laws and executive orders.