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 national wildlife refuge national wildlife refuge
A national wildlife refuge is typically a contiguous area of land and water managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service  for the conservation and, where appropriate, restoration of fish, wildlife and plant resources and their habitats for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.

Learn more about national wildlife refuge
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.

Iroquois is one of over 540 National Wildlife Refuges in the United States managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The National Wildlife Refuge System is the only network of federal lands dedicated specifically to wildlife conservation. The wetlands of Iroquois Refuge support thousands of waterfowl during spring and fall migration. Refuge wetlands support a heron rookery and provide habitat for nesting bald eagles and for many bird species of special concern in the State of New York including the black tern. The refuge’s forested wetlands provide habitat for many songbirds of conservation concern as well. Bald eagles have maintained an active nest on the refuge since 1986. Management goals also address the needs of species of special concern including black tern, black ducks, osprey, American woodcock, and peregrine falcons that use the refuge during some parts of the year.

We manage the refuge's different habitats in the following ways:


Historically, over 5,000 acres of the refuge were normally flooded in the spring and mostly dry by summer, primarily due to man-made drainage programs. To provide additional wetland habitat, a system of dikes (man-made barriers) and water control structures were created to help manage water levels. Water levels are carefully managed to provide a variety of feeding, nesting, brood rearing, and resting habitats for migratory birds and resident wildlife. Water levels are adjusted to mimic natural water fluctuations associated with unaltered wetlands and to provide the best possible wildlife habitat. These changes in water levels result in subsequent changes in wetland vegetation and ultimately provide the desired habitat. 

Emergent Marsh

Emergent marsh is important to waterfowl as well as wading birds, shorebirds, songbirds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and others. Species such black tern, bald eagle, Virginia rail, muskrat, mink and green frog all need emergent marsh for their survival. This habitat is characterized by shallow water, approximately one to two feet deep, with water loving plants emerging through the surface of the water. Much of the emergent marsh in the area was long ago drained and converted to other uses. The refuge tries to restore and manage this habitat for the many species that depend on it. 


Historically, most of the refuge was forested, but was eventually cleared for agriculture purposes. While the refuge still maintains large open areas for certain wildlife, it is important to remove small openings within forested areas to provide large blocks of unbroken forest. Many forest species require these large blocks of forest to thrive. To provide this habitat, a list of native tree species is compiled based on the soil types, and then the refuge will plant trees to “reforest” these small openings.

Forested Wetlands

The refuge contains over 3,000 acres of forested wetlands (bottomland hardwoods) most of which is part of the Oak Orchard Creek floodplain. Dominant tree species include, red and silver maple, green and black ash, eastern cottonwood and American elm. These forests provide habitat for many species, including wood ducks and cerulean warblers. Species like wood ducks nest in cavities in trees, which provide them added safety from next predators. These cavities are often old holes originally excavated by woodpeckers. Cerulean warblers nest and forage high up in the tree canopies, and can usually only be heard, not seen. 


While historically rare in western New York, grasslands are currently an important habitat type on the refuge. Grassland nesting birds have suffered decades of population decline, primarily due to a loss of critical habitat. The refuge maintains several large grassland areas, providing nesting and foraging habitat to these birds, which often require large unbroken grasslands for their survival. 

To keep grassland open, the refuge employs a combination of mowing, spraying, haying and prescribed (controlled) fire. On Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge, prescribed fire is used to remove woody plants and non-native species from grasslands. In addition to returning valuable nutrients to the soil, fire removes dangerous fuels such as dried grass and other plant debris which can lead to wildfires. Refuge fire fighters are trained to carry out prescribed burns in a safe and effective manner and specialized equipment is used to ensure a successful burn. 


As shrublands mature, they eventually become shaded by mature trees growing among the shrubs. Shrublands must be periodically mowed to reverse natural succession and remove these trees. To do this, the refuge uses a variety of techniques including a piece of heavy equipment called a Hydro-ax. A Hydro-ax is essentially a mower for small trees. Operators slowly mow over the trees until they are mulched up. Because shrubs grow faster than trees, and areas that are mowed by the Hydro-ax are quickly recolonized by shrub species, providing valuable habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife that are dependent on this habitat type. 

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. 

At this field station our conservation tool box includes:
  • Planning – Comprehensive Conservation Plan
  • Habitat Management
  • Climate Resilience  
  • Conservation Easements 
  • Compatibility Determinations
  • Cultural Resources 
  • Education & Outreach  
  • Fire Management 
  • Invasive Species Management
  • Inventory and Monitoring 
  • Law Enforcement 
  • Pesticide Management 
  • Recreation Management 
  • Species Research  
  • Water Management 
  • Haying 
  • Hunting 
  • Commercial Forest Management 
  • Furbearer Management 

The latest comprehensive conservation plan for Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge. This is the culmination of a planning effort involving the local community and many partners to establish 15-year management goals and objectives for wildlife habitat, public use and access and administration...

Our Services

At this field station we offer the following public services: 
  • America the Beautiful Passes (Federal Recreation Lands Passes) - We issue Military and Access passes only [Please, call the refuge office ahead of time to set up a time and date to obtain a Military or Access Pass] Click on this link to learn where you can obtain Annual and Senior Passes.By clicking this link you will be leaving the refuge website.
  • Every Kid Outdoors Pass - This program provides fourth graders free entrance to Public Lands with their families. By clicking this link you will be leaving the refuge website. Participate in a brief activity to earn a voucher. Bring the voucher in for an annual pass. Please call ahead to set up a time and date to pick up the card.
  • Duck Stamps - please call ahead of time to set up a time and date to obtain a Duck Stamp.
  • Cooperative Agriculture - The refuge issues Special Use Permits to harvest and remove hay from designated refuge grasslands by private parties. The refuge issues news releases each year announcing when permits will be issued.
  • Photo Blinds - The refuge has two photo blinds available to the public for reservation, one is at Mohawk Pool and the other at Ringneck Marsh. Call the refuge to reserve one today!
  • Photo Contests - sponsored by the Friends of Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge, Inc. This is an external link to the Friends' page.
  • Special Use Permits 
  • Recreation - check activities under "Visit Us"
  • Field Trip Programs - please call ahead to schedule
  • Volunteering and Youth Engagement - See "Get Involved"
Kayakers navigating a swamp full of trees and lily pads.

Some 30 national wildlife refuges  charge visitors a nominal entrance fee (generally $3-$5 daily)  to cover road and facility maintenance.  If you are a regular visitor or would like to visit other public lands, you could save by buying an America the Beautiful Federal...

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 as well as other state and local laws. Law enforcement officers also ensure the safety of visitors at National Wildlife Refuges.

Laws and Regulations

Protecting resources and people on our refuges is the fundamental responsibility of refuge officers. The mission of the Refuge Law Enforcement Program is to support the administration of the National Wildlife Refuge System through the management and protection of natural, historic and cultural resources, property, and people on lands and waters of our national wildlife refuges.

To report crimes, please call Refuge Law Enforcement at 585-948-5445 x. 7058.