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.

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 to thrive. Other refuges contain Wilderness areas where land is largely managed in 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:

Forest Management

Forest management at Mingo National Wildlife Refuge focuses on restoring bottomland hardwood habitats. Bottomland hardwood areas are important habitat for a variety of plants and animals, store and convey food waters, recharge groundwater supplies and sequester carbon and nitrogen.

Forest management tools include research, timber management activities, planting and manipulating water levels.

Water Management

Refuge staff manipulate water levels in five green tree reservoirs and two open marsh impoundments. Green tree reservoirs are forested areas that are shallowly flooded seasonally to provide feeding habitat for birds that rely on acorns and invertebrates under water. Impoundments are open marsh areas that can be drained and flooded seasonally to produce habitat during migration.

Nearly 60 miles of ditches and more than 57 water control structures form a drainage network that moves 45 billion gallons (137,740 acre feet) of water annually onto, around and off the refuge. These ditches hold water year-round and often provide refuge for fish species during low water periods. Actions to improve water transport throughout the ditch network reduce flood duration and improve bottomland forest dynamics, helping meet the refuge purpose of providing habitat for migratory birds.

Moist Soil Management

Twenty-one moist soil units totaling 800 acres are managed to produce food for migrating waterfowl, rails and shorebirds. Moist soil units are former farm fields developed to impound water through construction of dikes and water control structures. Moist soil management entails manipulating water levels to encourage growth of plants occurring naturally in the seed bank. The plants produce seeds that are high energy food for migrating waterfowl.

Flooding of the moist soil units typically begins in October or November, depending on migration, and proceeds in stages. Initially, one-third of each unit is flooded. Once waterfowl deplete the food supply an additional one-third is flooded, and finally the units are entirely flooded. Progressive flooding concentrates feeding waterfowl to fully utilize moist soil foods. From February through April, waterfowl feed on invertebrates found in the units.

Drawdowns of moist soil units begin in stages to expose mud flats to attract migrating shorebirds which feed on the available invertebrates. The timing of drawdowns also affects the germination of desirable moist soil vegetation to produce food for the following year.

Moist soil units are maintained to limit tree encroachment and other undesirable plant growth. These areas are managed by periodic farming, mowing, disking, herbicides and water level manipulation.

Cooperative Farming

Food crops such as corn, milo, winter wheat or soybeans are planted each year on approximately 300 acres or 1% of refuge lands. Cooperative farming is conducted under the terms and conditions of a Cooperative Farming Agreement. Under the Cooperative Farming Program, all or a portion (typically 25-33%) of each crop is left as food for wildlife. An additional 95 acres of food plots are maintained by refuge staff, Mingo Swamp Friends and volunteers.

Farming is used as a low cost means to maintain open habitats and reduce the amount of undesirable herbaceous and woody vegetation within moist soil management units and grassy openings. On some sites it is used to provide supplemental food for wildlife and is especially important for resident species during severe winters. The refuge encourages no-till farming and restricts pesticide and herbicide usage. Farming may also occur if parcels containing currently farmed land are purchased as additions to the refuge. Over the long term, the amount of farmed refuge lands will decrease as permanent native habitat is established in these areas.

Trapping

Trapping is a wildlife management tool used on some national wildlife refuges. Trapping may be used to protect endangered and threatened species or migratory birds or to control certain wildlife populations. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also views trapping as a legitimate recreational and economic activity when there are harvestable surpluses of fur-bearing mammals. Outside of Alaska, refuges that permit trapping as a recreational use may require trappers to obtain a refuge special use permit. Signs are posted on refuges where trapping occurs. Contact the refuge manager for specific regulations.

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.

 

Laws and Regulations

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.