What We Do
Refuge staff actively manage many of the habitats on the refuge to benefit wildlife. Our goal is to mimic essential natural processes such as flooding scouring, burning and drying that have been lost or altered due to man’s influence along the river. By carefully raising and lowering water levels in wetlands, setting controlled fires in grasslands and planting trees and other native vegetation, habitat conditions are managed and improved to meet the needs of migratory birds and other wildlife.
Management and Conservation
Historically, when the Mississippi River flooded from seasonal rains or snow melts, the abundance of water expanded across the floodplains adjacent to its shores. Since the beginning of levee construction back in the 1880s, the floodplains behind the levees are no longer naturally replenished by these events.
Clarence Cannon National Wildlife Refuge is located in the floodplain of the Mississippi River and most of the property is surrounded by a levee. The presence of the levee not only restricts the refuge from the seasonal pulses of the river, but also closes it off from the waters which flow from the hillsides down to the river, known as the watershed.
Refuges use a wide range of land management tools based on the best science available. Due to these man-made modifications to the landscape, our conservation toolbox includes management actions that help replicate the natural function of the floodplain within the levees.
The refuge infrastructure includes a network of water control structures, ditches and pumps that allow staff to draw from a tributary to the Mississippi River into the refuge. In turn, the water flows into individually managed areas called moist soil units. Each of the units is capable of being managed independent from the next, allowing for variations in water levels that directly impact food and habitat availability for migrating and over wintering waterfowl.
Mechanical methods of manipulating the habitat include disking, rolling and mowing. These methods are used to promote a large percentage of annual plants that provide high quality food for ducks (including wild millet, fall panicum, redroot and marsh marigold). Turning over the soil with plows or disks serve to break up and expose roots of undesirable plants while returning buried seed from favorable species back to the surface. Rolling helps to do the same, however the activity allows for work to be completed during wet conditions. Mowing is completed before undesirable plants produce seed, thus allowing for later growing, more favorable plants to out compete them.
Restoration and Enhancement
Planting of native plants such as trees, grasses, sedges and other species help to restore and enhance the habitat on the refuge. Timber stand improvement projects involve the selective removal of trees surrounding a slow growing desirable tree, such as an oak or hickory. The removal of the surrounding trees within a specified radius from the chosen tree aids in reducing competition for energy from the sun, moisture and nutrients from the soil. These and other restoration and enhancement projects help to optimize habitats on the refuge for wildlife.
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
National Wildlife Refuge System Laws
Refuges are special places where wildlife comes first. All activities allowed on refuges must be evaluated to make sure each activity will not conflict with the reason the refuge was founded. The refuge system has special regulations about what you can do. You can find these regulations in the 50 Code of Federal Regulations - Subchapter C.