Special Values

Refuge Entrance Sign on South Side

 "If you travel much in the wilder sections of our country, sooner or later you are likely to meet the sign of the flying goose — the emblem of the national wildlife refuges. You may meet it by the side of a road crossing miles of flat prairie in the Middle West, or in the hot deserts of the Southwest. You may meet it by some mountain lake, or as you push your boat through the winding salty creeks of a coastal march. Wherever you meet this sign, respect it. It means that the land behind the sign has been dedicated by the American people to preserving, for themselves and their children, as much of our native wildlife as can be retained along with our modern civilization. Wild creatures, like men, must have a place to live. As civilization creates cities, builds highways, and drains marshes, it takes away, little by little, the land that is suitable for wildlife. And as their space for living dwindles, the wildlife populations themselves decline. Refuges resist this trend by saving some areas from encroachment, and by preserving in them, or restoring where necessary, the conditions that wild things need in order to live." (Rachel Carson, USFWS 'Conservation in Action' series)

Osprey at nestEarly in the Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) process, the planning team and public identified the refuge’s unique qualities or special values—characteristics and features of the refuge that make it special, valuable for wildlife, and an integral part of the Refuge System: 

  •  protects 2,800 acres of —riparian, wetland, and upland habitats— in a rapidly growing county  
  • supports a healthy riparian corridor used by breeding neotropical songbirds  
  • contains gallery forest along the Bitterroot River 
  • provides a wildlife corridor that runs north to south along the Bitterroot River and east to west from North Burnt Fork Creek to Kootenai Creek 
  • contains the largest montane wetland complex in the Bitterroot Valley on which many migratory bird species are dependent for breeding and migration stopovers 
  • Silver bordered Fritillary nectaring provides resting habitat for trumpeter swans primarily during migration  
  • provides habitat for a great blue heron rookery containing 12–18 nests 
  • provides habitat for one bald eagle nest and foraging habitat for one additional nest less than 0.5 mile from the refuge 
  • provides exceptional viewing opportunities for nesting osprey and maintains the longest running dataset for nesting osprey in Montana 
  • lies within the Bitterroot River Important Bird Area, as designated by the National Audubon Society 
  • provides habitat for 242 bird species, 40 mammal species, and 11 species of reptiles and amphibians 
  • contains 45 documented species of concern (38 birds, 3 mammals, 2 plants, 1 aquatic insect, and 1 amphibian) listed in Montana 
  • provides habitat for moose, black bear, and (occasionally) elk on the valley floor 
  • Paddle-tailed Darner warming includes designated critical habitat for endangered bull trout 
  • includes a portion of the Bitterroot River, which is considered a blue ribbon trout fishery 
  • lies within the Bitterroot Valley, the traditional homeland of the Salish, Nez Perce, and Pend d’Oreilles native peoples 
  • located a few miles from Stevensville, the oldest continuous Euro-American settlement in Montana 
  • contains the historic Whaley Homestead, which was built in 1885 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places 
  • offers one of the few places to hunt waterfowl on public land in Ravalli County and the entire Bitterroot Valley 
  • provides environmental education and research opportunities for more than 16,000 area students of all ages (Missoula to Hamilton) 
  • serves as a “window” on the Refuge System for its 240,000 annual visits, providing the public with a multitude of wildlife-dependent recreational activities in a peaceful and beautiful setting 
  • provides a visitor contact area staffed by volunteers and an outdoor amphitheater with vistas of refuge wetlands, the heron rookery, and the Bitterroot Mountains 
  •  Columbian Ground Squirrel emerging in Springprovides universally accessible nature trails with views of multiple habitat types and opportunities to view a variety of wetland, grassland, and forest bird species 
  • contains a 2.5-mile-long designated National Recreation Trail 
  • contains portions of the Ice Age Trail and the Nez Perce National Historic Trail 
  • collaborates with a wide variety of area organizations to carry out the refuge mission (that is, land management, visitor service, historic restoration, and research) 
  • provides close-up wildlife viewing opportunities 
  • serves as a point of pride for area citizens 
  • provides research opportunities for dozens of wildlife and environmental researchers 
  • attracts dozens of volunteers who annually donate 8,500 work hours