Welcome to the Fergus Falls Wetland Management District, where we care for almost 50,000 acres of wildlife habitat scattered across five counties in western Minnesota.
Situated on the eastern edge of North America's prairie pothole landscape, also known as the duck factory, we strive to preserve, restore, and manage wetlands and prairies for nesting waterfowl (ducks, geese, and swans). You can enjoy many types of outdoor recreation here through the seasons while you observe wildlife, like bird watching, hiking, nature photography, snowshoeing, and hunting. The best place for most visitors to start their adventure is at the Prairie Wetlands Learning Center.
From district lands, witness some of the highest densities of breeding waterfowl in Minnesota. Freshwater prairie wetlands and the associated northern tallgrass prairie join to form a zone of transition with the eastern hardwood forest. This blend of habitats supports an impressive diversity of more than 293 bird species. Established in 1962, the district is home to 223 management units called waterfowl production areas, most of which are open to the public.
The district is also home to the Prairie Wetlands Learning Center, the only residential environmental education facility of the National Wildlife Refuge System, and to the internationally recognized Prairie Science Class partnership with Fergus Falls Public Schools. Located on Townsend Waterfowl Production Area, the center provides environmental education, interpretation and outdoor recreation opportunities for many regional schools as well and walk-in visitors.
On a larger geographic scale, the district is situated on the eastern edge of North America’s Prairie Pothole Region, also known as the duck factory. About 118 million acres in size, this landscape produces more than 50% of the continent’s waterfowl due to its matrix of having the historically highest density of wetlands and associated upland prairie. Wetlands of varying sizes and depths skirted by short, mixed and tallgrass prairies are places unlike any other. They still provide nesting habitat for a rich variety of dabbling and diving ducks despite a massive conversion of the grassland biome to agriculture. Here, trumpeter swans glide gracefully across the water as their haunting calls echo under an expansive sky and the earthy smell of wetland reeds and clean water drift through the air.
Our objectives include developing and managing habitat for waterfowl production, including habitat for native plants and animals, especially prairie songbirds. Staff also assist private landowners with restoration of wetlands and grasslands.
The mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System is to administer a national network of lands and waters for the conservation, management and, where appropriate, restoration of the fish, wildlife and plant resources and their habitats within the United States for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.
Along with national wildlife refuges, wetland management districts are units of the National Wildlife Refuge System. The vision of wetland management districts in Minnesota is to emphasize waterfowl production and ensure the preservation of habitat for migratory birds, threatened and endangered native species and resident wildlife. Minnesota wetland management districts provide opportunities for the public to hunt, fish, observe and photograph wildlife and increase public understanding and appreciation of the Northern Tallgrass Prairie Ecosystem.
Fergus Falls Wetland Management District Objectives
- Acquire, develop and manage habitat for waterfowl production
- Provide habitat for native plants and animals, especially prairie songbirds
- Assist private landowners with restoration of wetlands and grasslands
- Provide wildlife‐dependent recreation and education
In the National Wildlife Refuge System, eachis created for a special purpose. Some are created to protect migratory birds, others to protect threatened or endangered species or unique habitats, while others fulfill another special purpose. All activities allowed on refuges must be evaluated to make sure each activity will not conflict with the reason the refuge was founded.
Fergus Falls Wetland Management District is a unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System. It was established in 1962 for the production of waterfowl and to preserve and restore wetlands and associated prairie habitats.
March 16, 1934 - Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act
President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act, known as the Duck Stamp Act, and an increasingly concerned nation took firm action to stop the destruction of wetlands vital to the survival of migratory waterfowl. Under the act, all waterfowl hunters 16 years of age and over must annually buy and carry a Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp - better known today as a Federal Duck Stamp. The stage was set for the most aggressive land acquisition campaign for conservation of wildlife habitat in American history.
August 1, 1958 - Amendment to the Duck Stamp Act; Small Wetlands Program and first Waterfowl Production Areas created
The first waterfowl production areas, like those found in the Fergus Falls Wetland Management District, were created by an amendment to the Federal Duck Stamp Act, which created the Small Wetlands Program. Scientists realized that these copious small pockets of habitat were vital to breeding waterfowl. This amendment gave the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service permission to purchase small wetlands and uplands for breeding waterfowl and for hunting to create waterfowl production areas. The acquired wetlands and waterfowl production areas formed the core of the wetland management districts which were first established in the early 1960s.
Late 1950s - Easement acquisition began
Willing landowners first agreed to sell to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service their drainage, filling, leveling and burning rights on wetland basins across the Prairie Pothole Region.
1961 - The Wetlands Loan Act was approved
The Wetlands Loan Act authorized an advance of funds against future revenues from the sale of duck stamps as a means of accelerating the acquisition of migratory waterfowl habitat. This was an important action as it allowed land managers to meet landowner demand for easements in a more timely manner. Soon after, wetland management districts were created throughout the prairie pothole region to administer the wetland easements and fee-title lands acquired under the Small Wetlands Acquisition Program.
1962 - The Fergus Falls Wetland Management District was established.
August 8, 1998 - Grand opening of the Prairie Wetlands Learning Center
1999 - On waterfowl production areas in western Minnesota, more than 4,000 wetland restorations have impounded 15,900 wetland acres. Fergus Falls Wetland Management District has, on average, 23,400 to 73,400 breeding ducks each year.
Yesterday, today and tomorrow - Your purchase of a Federal Duck Stamp provides funds to acquire waterfowl production areas and easements. Anyone can purchase duck stamps; you don’t have to be a hunter. Thank you for helping us help wildlife!
Other Facilities in this Complex
While not technically considered a complex, three U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service offices are co-located in Fergus Falls, Minnesota, at our district headquarters office building:
- Fergus Falls Wetland Management District, part of the National Wildlife Refuge System
- Fergus Falls Wetlands Acquisition Office, a field office of the Midwest Region, Division of Realty
- Habitat and Population Evaluation Team, part of the Division of Migratory Birds