Resource Management

Resource Management 329x219








Conservation is a state of harmony between men and land.

~Aldo Leopold  

The Lake Isom National Wildlife Refuge is administered under the National Wildlife Refuge System and thus is part of a larger national landscape conservation plan set forth by the Service. 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” (National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997). There are currently over 560 national wildlife refuges encompassing more than 150 million acres of lands managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The refuges are important components for the conservation and management of fish, wildlife, and plant resources within the National Wildlife Refuge System.

The refuge practices several different types of management techniques to provide optimum habitat for wintering waterfowl.  


Click Next to learn about these practices.

Moist Soil Impoundments

Moist Soil wetlands historically occurred where openings existed in bottomland hardwoods.  Forest openings were often caused by high winds, catastrophic floods, beavers, fires, etc.  Man-made impoundments are commonly managed as moist-soil wetlands.  Moist-soil areas are typified by seed producing annuals such as smartweed, wild millet, and sprangletop.  Planting moist-soil areas is not necessary because native plant seeds are abundant in frequently flooded soils.  Over 2,500 pounds per acre of seed can be produced in a properly managed moist-soil area.  (Wetland Management for Waterfowl-A Handbook 2007)

Moist soil habitats are an integral part of managing public wetlands for waterfowl, as these food resources are provided in large part only on state and federal lands.  The Lake Isom and Reelfoot NWR's and the associated river floodplains are capable of supplying moist soil foods such as barnyard grass, sprangletop, smartweed, rice cut-grass, and a host of other beneficial herbaceous plants.  The Refuges manage approximately 1,560 acres of a combination of agricultural crops and moist soil foods.  This acreage varies from year to year, based on management needs.  The Refuges annually provide substantial acreages of these early successional moist soil habitats and play a key role in the migration patterns of mid-continental waterfowl and other migratory birds. (Reelfoot/Lake Isom NWR Comprehensive Conservation Plan and Environmental Assessment, 2005)

Click next to learn about our valuable bottomland hardwood forests.

Bottomland Hardwood Forests

The Reelfoot and Lake Isom NWR's protect more than 7,294 acres of bottomland hardwood and bald cypress forest habitat.  The refuges' bottomland forests provide invaluable habitat for a wide range of wildlife species and are critical to their preservation and perpetuation.  Bottomland hardwood forests are important to migratory and wintering waterfowl, particularly mallards and wood ducks.  The forested tracts provide crucial food resouces such as hard mast, soft mast, and invertebrates for mallards during flood events in the fall and early spring. 

25 million acres of bottomland hardwood forests once dominated the Lower Mississippi Aluvial Valley.  Today, over 95% of this important wetland habitat has been cleared for agriculture and other purposes.   Due to the previous destruction of bottomland hardwood forests, corn is planted to replace the valuable acorns that were once an essential food in our area for migratory waterfowl.  Click next to learn more about our farming techniques.  


Agricultural crops play an important role in the scheme of migratory bird management, as they provide a source of high-energy carbohydrates needed during periods of cold weather.  Typically, refuges rotate crops and moist soils to ensure a readily available source of food for wildlife, and to meet refuge objectives set forth in the West Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge Conservation Plan.  The cropland operation on the Reelfoot and Lake Isom refuges includes approximately 1,560 acres, which are managed in a combination of agricultural crops and moist soil foods.  This acreage varies from year to year, based on management needs.  These crops are left standing in the fields and provide supplemental forage for resident and migratory wildlife, specifically migratory waterfowl. 

Approximately 450 acres of the refuges' crop fields can be flooded for waterfowl use as part of the refuges' impoundment systems.  This, coupled with subsequent acquisitions allow the refuges to make substantial contributions to the migratory bird objectives of the Mississippi Flyway.  The refuges' farming program will continue to address the lack of habitat issues that affect migratory bird populations.