Resource Management

Biologists at Ford Marsh Unit

Refuge staff and partners collaborate to protect and conserve the unique habitats of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge using a variety of resource management techniques.

  • Overview

    The 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 management, prescribed fire, mechanical disturbance, seeding and planting, 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

    Water control structure

    Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge was established, in part, to protect and conserve rapidly disappearing Great Lakes coastal wetlands. Most of the Refuge’s 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 required to fulfill the obligations set forth in the Refuge's Habitat Management Plan


  • Prescribed Fire

    Fire crew managing prescribed fire at a refuge

    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 the Refuge’s diversity by mimicking naturally occurring disturbance by fire. Burning at the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge is conducted in accordance with a Fire Management Plan. 

    Learn more about the use of Prescribed Fire by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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  • Biological Research

    Biologists examining plants in field

    Research activities by local partners are an important resource for Refuge staff. Research can highlight successes of current management actions and 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. Those interested in conducting research, inventory activities, or monitoring on the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge can learn more about applying for a special use permit by contacting Refuge Biologist Jessie Fletcher.

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  • Invasive Species Management

    USFWS staff spraying noxious weeds

    Invasive species degrade, change, or displace native habitats and compete with our native plants and wildlife. Monitoring and control of invasive species using adaptive learning techniques and best management practices is an integral part of Refuge management. The 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. 

    Learn more about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's use of applied management techniques to monitor and control invasive species across the nation.

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