Resource Management

Prescribed Burn

 We use a variety of land management techniques to restore and reconstruct the tallgrass prairie habitat.

  • Grassland Restoration

    Although we strive to purchase mostly areas that are already prairie, sometimes cropland is included. Once cropland is purchased, we restore it by planting native grasses and wildflowers. When we do a restoration, we try to imitate what species were present prior to settlement, to the best of our ability. We often harvest native grass and wildflower seeds from another native or already-restored unit, and then plant that seed on the new site.

  • Tree removal

    By definition, prairie usually has less than 5%-10% trees. Historically, western Minnesota and most of Iowa was void of most trees except the occasional oak savanna or cottonwoods along rivers, streams and draws. Prairie plants and animals evolved in these conditions, and many species of grassland birds avoid nesting near trees since they are good places for predator birds to hide. Because trees are not part of the prairie ecosystem, we do a lot of work to remove trees that are encroaching into our prairies.

  • Invasive Weed Control

    It is a never-ending battle to keep invasive plants out of our prairies. If left unchecked, they can take over an area and keep out the very native plants we work so hard to grow. As a result, a great deal of effort goes into managing weeds. We try to use the least destructive method possible to remove invasive weeds, including hand pulling, mowing or haying, or if necessary, we can use a chemical treatment by either spot spraying or broadcasting a larger area. We must be very careful with chemical treatments though, because they can harm native plants as well.

  • Prescribed Fire

    Fire is a natural part of the prairie ecosystem, and is an integral part of what historically formed and managed the prairie. Fires burn off the build-up of dead plants from previous growing seasons, exposes the soil to air, and recycles nutrients. Many native plants evolved with fire, and their seeds often don’t germinate without intense heat or another disturbance. Our prescribed fire staff plans and carries out safe, controlled burns on our prairie units to simulate natural processes. We generally burn areas on a 3-5 year rotation, and see significant improvements in grassland cover as well as a reduction in non-native plants.

  • Easements

    In addition to managing prairie units that we own, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also purchases easements on privately owned land, which then in this case becomes part of the Northern Tallgrass Prairie National Wildlife Refuge. These habitat easements protect existing grasslands and wetland complexes by restricting the landowners from draining wetlands or tilling or disturbing prairie. An easement functions as a privately held wildlife refuge, where the landowner controls all other aspects of land use. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service can help with habitat improvement projects on the property, if the landowner requests it.

  • Private Lands

    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’ Partners for Fish and Wildlife program assists landowners with the restoration and management of habitat on private land. This program is especially important to us as we manage our easement lands, which are privately owned. Service biologists work with the landowners to design grassland restoration projects or other habitat improvements. The program can also provide financial assistance for these improvements.

  • Trapping Occurs on this Refuge

    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. Click here for more information.