What We Do

The reservoir contains about 1,672 surface acres at full pool level. The only Service influence of water levels comes through cooperation with the Flathead Irrigation Project. In the case of conflicts, wildlife becomes secondary to irrigation needs due to wording in the 1921 Executive Order. However, the water regime for irrigation has generally benefited wildlife at Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge. In particular, the refuge has become an important breeding and staging area for a large portion of the Flathead Valley Canada goose population, a western grebe nesting colony, a large great blue heron colony, a double-crested cormorant colony, a variety of ducks, and numerous species of other marsh and water birds.

Management and Conservation


Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge, as part of the Northwest Montana Wetland Management District, has started its Comprehensive Conservation Plan process. Check back for more information, time line, progress reports, drafts, comment periods and contacts.

Comprehensive Conservation Plan

We prepare comprehensive conservation plans for national wildlife refuges and wetland management districts to help fulfill the mission of the Refuge System and manage for the purposes of each refuge and district. Each 15-year comprehensive conservation plan identifies issues, goals, objectives, and strategies for management of a refuge, refuge complex, district, or district complex. The plan describes a vision for the area and gives the refuge or district manager a blueprint for management. The plan also provides you with a clear picture of what we intend to do for wildlife protection, habitat management, and visitor services.

The Division of Refuge Planning in Region 6 works with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staffs, partners, and the public to prepare comprehensive conservation plans for every 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
and wetland management district wetland management district
A wetland management district is a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service office that manages waterfowl production areas in one or more counties. Waterfowl production areas are small natural wetlands and grasslands that provide breeding, resting and nesting habitat for waterfowl, shorebirds, grassland birds and other wildlife. The Fish and Wildlife Service acquires waterfowl production areas under the authority of the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp Act, primarily using funds from the sale of Federal Duck Stamps. The Refuge System’s 38 wetland management districts comprise thousands of waterfowl production areas – almost all in the Prairie Pothole Region of the Northern Great Plains.

Learn more about wetland management district
in the Mountain–Prairie Region.

National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act

National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997: The National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act defines a unifying mission for all refuges, including a process for determining compatible uses on refuges, and requiring that each refuge be managed according to a Comprehensive Conservation Plan. The National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act expressly states that wildlife conservation is the priority of System lands and that the Secretary shall ensure that the biological integrity, diversity, and environmental health of refuge lands are maintained. Each refuge must be managed to fulfill the specific purposes for which the refuge was established and the System mission. The first priority of each refuge is to conserve, manage, and if needed, restore fish and wildlife populations and habitats according to its purpose. 

Our Services


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issues permits under various wildlife laws and treaties at a number of offices throughout the country. Permits enable the public to engage in legitimate wildlife-related activities that would otherwise be prohibited by law. Service permit programs ensure that such activities are carried out in a manner that safeguards wildlife. Additionally, some permits promote conservation efforts by authorizing scientific research, generating data, or allowing wildlife management and rehabilitation activates to go forward.

Permit Application Process

Please allow Refuge staff at least two weeks to receive and process Special Use Permit, particularly if the permittee is seeking to conduct activities on a weekend or Federal holiday when authorized staff may not be present to issue a permit. Permit applications may be submitted by mail, fax, or email.

Research Project Permits

Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge promotes conservation efforts by authorizing scientific research, generating data, or allowing wildlife management and rehabilitation activities to occur on Refuge lands. Some of these are done under the auspices of University programs or non-governmental conservation groups (NGOs). Service permit programs ensure that such activities are carried out in a manner that safeguards wildlife.

Natural History Filming

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recognizes the crucial link between public awareness and effective management of the National Wildlife Refuge System. We can use natural history films as an opportunity to educate and inform public about the National Wildlife Refuge System and raise the visibility of, and thus the support for, the Refuge System. The Service conducted a compatibility review and decided to allow producers of natural history films to obtain footage of wildlife in their native habitat on the National Bison Range Complex lands. To receive a permit, subjects and themes must support and enhance the mission of the US Fish and Wildlife Service to conserve fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats.

Interested parties need to apply for and receive a special use permit for each project. Information needed to process the permit will include: description of project objectives and themes, intended audience, types of equipment to be used, estimated amount of time to spend in the field, and bonding information. Please completely fill out and submit special use permit form 3-1383-C. Feel free to attach additional informational, such as promotional brochures and web links, to help clarify your project. Applicants must allow at least two weeks for the Project Leader to process the permit and determine appropriateness of project. Photographing, videoing or filming of wildlife will be permitted only when wildlife and natural resources will not be molested, harmed, or disturbed.

Cultural Collection

Tribal members may apply for a permit to collect culturally significant plants on Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge. Permits allow Native Americans to continue historic collection and allow the Service to document cultural use and to protect resources. Plants must be for non-commercial personal or community use.


Under a cooperative agreement with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, the general Tribal recreation fee is waived for non-consumptive use of Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge by non-members of the Tribes. In accordance with State law and the Joint State/Tribal Agreement, anglers must possess a joint Flathead Reservation Use and Conservation Permit and Fishing Stamp. For limits, seasons and other regulations, refer to the Flathead Indian Reservation Fishing Regulations. 

Law Enforcement

To report injured wildlife or a violation on the Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge contact:

District Law Enforcement Officer Mike Koole 406-214-6415.

After hours law enforcement contact: Lake County Sheriff’s Office 406-883-7301.

For Emergency contact dial 911.

Laws and Regulations

To fulfill their federal game warden obligations, our officers also check hunting and fishing licenses and work closely with the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Game Wardens to enforce federal and state hunting and fishing regulations. They also work closely with the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, Montana Highway Patrol, and other Federal, State, Tribal, and local law enforcement departments. Federal Wildlife Officers also have jurisdiction to enforce a wide variety of federal conservation laws throughout the United States, including those related to migratory bird hunting on and off of Refuge lands.