What We Do
Wildlife conservation is at the heart of the National Wildlife Refuge System. It drives everything on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lands and waters managed within the Refuge System, from the purposes for which a is established, to the recreational activities offered, to the resource management tools used. Using conservation best practices, the Refuge System manages Service lands and waters to help ensure the survival of native wildlife species.
Management and Conservation
Refuges deploy a host of scientifically sound management tools to address biological challenges. These tools span active water management to wilderness character monitoring, all aimed at ensuring a balanced conservation approach to benefit both wildlife and people.
Management activities on the refuge include cooperative farming to provide high energy foods (e.g., rice, milo, and millet for migratory birds), moist-soil development, mud-flat management for migratory wading and shorebirds, installing and maintaining water control structures, restoring bottomland hardwood forests, and providing compatible wildlife dependent recreation.
Water management is critical at Bald Knob NWR. In fact, Bald Knob NWR has one of the largest and most elaborate irrigation systems found on any refuge. This system contains 10 different pump stations, 15 miles of canals, 350 pipes and water control structures, 100 miles of levees, and 110 miles of ditches. The system is used for growing crops, creating moist soil units, providing wading bird habitat, creating mudflats for shorebirds, flooding bottomland and hardwoods for waterfowl, restoring wetlands, and providing habitat for fish and other aquatic species.
Moist Soil Management: A practice in which managers and biologists manage lands to promote the growth of native wetland vegetation, primarily moist soil plant communities that are the most beneficial to migratory waterfowl and other species. This practice is achieved through manipulating water levels throughout the spring and summer months. Mangers will maintain shallow water habitat throughout the fall and winter for migratory waterfowl, and then in the spring will begin to draw down those water levels to promote desirable plant communities. Often times these areas are rotated from year to year between active farming and moist soil production. Moist soil plant communities provide essential nutrients directly from the seed producing plants, for invertebrates, as well as cover, all of which are essential for wintering waterfowl.
Forestry Management: While over half of the forested lands on Bald Knob NWR were reforested in the past 15-20 years, active forestry management is conducted on the existing mature forested lands. As trees age and become less productive, or a desire to manage for selected species exists, foresters will often prescribe timber harvests to achieve objectives.
Mud-flat Management: Each year thousand upon thousands of migratory shorebirds pass through Bald Knob NWR. Mangers actively manage "mud-flat" habitat to provide foraging areas for these transient visitors. This objective is achieved by holding water at a certain depth to inhibit plant growth throughout the spring and early summer and then in late summer, drop the water levels to expose the mud-flats for the shorebirds to forage in. A distinguishing characteristic of most shorebirds are their long, slender bills that are perfectly suited for probing in the mud to feed on crustaceans and invertebrates. Due to this specialized method of foraging, managers can provide the perfect habitat to help these travelers refuel for their continued journey south each year.
Infrastructure Maintenance: Bald Knob NWR was established to protect and provide feeding and resting areas for migrating waterfowl. In order to achieve this goal and provide access to the thousands of annual visitors, the staff at Bald Knob NWR work diligently throughout the year to maintain the infrastructure that exists on the refuge. With over 350 water control structures and the many miles of maintained roads, levees, canals, and drainage ditches, the workload never ceases. This continued maintenance is critical for the current and future generations of wildlife and people to utilize and enjoy the many benefits of the refuge.
A Refuge Access permit is required for all hunting activities. The permit is free and is located on the front cover of the Public Use Regulations Brochure. They can be downloaded online or picked up at the refuge visitor center.