What We Do

Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge protects a variety of habitats that are actively managed to maintain diversity, protect sensitive ecosystems and benefit the native plant and animal species that use the refuge. Management activities include water level manipulation, prescribed fire, mechanical disturbance, seeding and planting, 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
control and working collaboratively with partners to conserve and protect our natural areas. Biological inventorying and monitoring, along with novel scientific research on the refuge, are used to inform management decisions and fill gaps in our collective scientific understanding.

Water Management

Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge was established, in part, to protect and conserve rapidly disappearing Great Lakes coastal wetlands. Most refuge wetlands are hydrologically connected to Lake Erie, but a portion of the Brancheau, Fix and Ford Marsh Units are maintained by a system of constructed earthen dikes and water control structures that allow manipulation of the water levels based on management objectives and time of year. An annually revised water management plan outlines water manipulation actions as a guide for refuge staff and is required to fulfill the obligations set forth in refuge planning documents.

Prescribed Fire

The use of fire is a proven and well-tested management tool that improves the quality of habitat for fish and migratory bird populations. Prescribed fire is used to maintain plant hversity by mimicking naturally occurring disturbance by fire. Burning at Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge is conducted in accordance with a refuge fire management plan.

Invasive Species Management

Invasive species degrade, change or displace native habitats and compete with native plants and wildlife. Refuge staff monitor and control of invasive species using adaptive learning techniques and best management practices is an integral part of refuge management. Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge is also a partner in the Detroit River-Western Lake Erie Cooperative Weed Management Area. This group of local landowners was formed in 2011 to promote efficiency in invasive species removal with enhanced communication, monitoring, and resource sharing.

Biological Research

Research activities by local partners are an important resource for refuge staff and can highlight successes of current management actions, as well as help guide future decisions. Past research projects have answered questions about invasive species management, improved vegetation monitoring and assessed the health of local wildlife species. Contact us if you are interested in conducting research, inventory activities or monitoring on the refuge. We’re happy to explain how to apply for a special use permit. You can reach refuge staff at DetroitRiver@fws.gov.

Management and Conservation

Comprehensive Conservation Plan

The Comprehensive Conservation Plan for the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge was completed in June 2005. This 15 year plan outlines the strategic approach that refuge staff use to fulfill the legal purpose of the refuge and contribute to the wider National Wildlife Refuge System goals for wildlife, habitat and public use.

We expect the following major achievements over the life of the plan to include protecting coastal wetlands, islands and other unique habitat; establishing a visitor center; developing a network of refuge volunteers and fostering partnerships to assist the refuge in achieving wildlife and habitat goals. 

Habitat Management Plan

The Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge Habitat Management Plan guides our current and future management actions and is based on the best possible scientific knowledge. This document serves as a step-down plan to our comprehensive conservation plan by integrating its broader goals into more specific conservation actions.

Inventory and Monitoring Plan

The Inventory and Monitoring Plan for Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge outlines the current and future inventory and monitory surveys that will be conducted on the refuge. These surveys address resource management objectives outlined in the refuge Comprehensive Conservation Plan and Habitat Management Plan. 

National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act

The National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997 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 Comprehensive Conservation Plan. The act expressly states that wildlife conservation is the priority for these federal lands and that the Secretary of the Interior 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 National Wildlife Refuge 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. 

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. Some 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.

Law enforcement issues should be referred to the National Wildlife Refuge System TIPs Line: 1-844-397-8477.