What We Do

The National Wildlife Refuge System is a series of lands and waters owned and managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Wildlife conservation is at the heart of the refuge system. It drives everything we do from the purpose a refuge is established, to the recreational activities offered there, to the resource management tools we use. Selecting the right tools helps us ensure the survival of local plants and animals and helps fulfill the purpose of the refuge.

Michigan Islands National Wildlife Refuge is managed passively. Refuge staff monitor the islands for major issues and intervenes when necessary, but the islands largely take care of themselves. Due to the sensitive nature of colonial nesting waterbirds and federally threatened plants the islands are closed to the public.

Management and Conservation

Refuges use a wide range of land management tools based on the best science available. Some refuges use prescribed fires to mimic natural fires that would have cleared old vegetation from the land helping native plants regenerate and local wildlife thrive. Other refuges contain wilderness areas where land is largely managed passively. The management tools used are aimed at ensuring a balanced conservation approach where both wildlife and people will benefit. At this field station our conservation toolbox includes:

Wilderness Character Monitoring

The Wilderness Act of 1964 mandated the preservation of wilderness character in the sites which were selected. The four qualities of wilderness character outlined in the act are that lands are untrammeled, natural, undeveloped and providing solitude. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service routinely evaluates the wilderness areas located on its lands to ensure the areas maintain their wilderness character. If a problem is identified corrective actions are taken to fix the issue.

The four characters of wilderness are untrammeled, natural, undeveloped and providing solitude.

  • Untrammeled means area where the earth and its community of life generally appears to have been affected primarily by the forces of nature
  • Natural means an area that is protected and managed to preserve its natural conditions
  • Undeveloped means an area of undeveloped federal land. Without permanent improvements or human habitation and where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.
  • Providing solitude means it has outstanding opportunities for solitude or primitive and unconfined recreation
  • Wilderness may also contain ecological, geological or other features of scientific, educational, scenic or historical value

Land Protection

We visit the islands regularly to maintain boundary signs. The lands are not open to the public to protect the colonial nesting waterbirds and sensitive federally threatened plants which occur on some of the islands.

Research, Inventory and Monitoring

We partner with universities and other agencies to learn about and understand the natural communities of plants and animals using the islands.

During our visits to the islands we also conduct our own investigations. We maintain a list of the plants and animals we encounter during our visits. We also monitor sensitive resources by paying special attention to species like the threatened plants growing on the islands.

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. They work closely with state and local government offices to enforce federal, state and refuge hunting regulations that protect migratory birds and other game species from illegal take and preserve legitimate hunting opportunities. Report possible violations to refuge staff.

Laws and Regulations

Refuges are special places where wildlife comes first. All activities allowed on refuges must be evaluated to make sure each activity will not conflict with the reason the refuge was founded. Because of the sensitive nature of colonial nesting waterbirds and sensitive plant communities Michigan Islands National Wildlife Refuge is closed to the public. Special use permits are needed for all access.