What We Do

Wildlife conservation is at the heart of the National Wildlife Refuge System. It drives everything on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lands and waters managed within the Refuge System, from the purposes for which a 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.

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is established to the recreational activities offered to the resource management tools used. Using conservation best practices, the Refuge System manages Service lands and waters to help ensure the survival of native wildlife species.

Management and Conservation

Refuges deploy a host of scientifically sound management tools to address biological challenges. These tools span active water management to wilderness character monitoring, all aimed at ensuring a balanced conservation approach to benefit both wildlife and people.  At this field station our conservation tool box includes:


Planning – Comprehensive Conservation Plan

Habitat Restoration: Most of the mature bottomland hardwood forest once common in the Ohio River's floodplain no longer exists. The refuge is working to restore this important wildlife habitat by allowing nature to regrow the forest and by planting open areas with native trees. One of the biggest obstacles to this effort is the invasion of the islands by non-native plants such as Japanese knotweed, mile-a-minute, and multi-flora rose. Intensive control efforts, including the use of herbicides, are part of the refuge's land management strategy. In addition to protecting islands, the refuge is looking at the potential for protecting mainland wetlands and embayments along the Ohio River. These critical habitats provide shallow-water feeding areas for wading birds, nursery habitat for many species of fish, shelter for wintering waterfowl, and other benefits.

Climate Resilience

Conservation Easements

Compatibility Determinations

Contaminants Mitigation

Cultural Resources

Education & Outreach

Human Dimensions

Invasive Species

Inventory and Monitoring

Land Acquisition

Law Enforcement

Pesticide Management

Recreation Management

Species Research

Water Management

Wildlife Health

Wilderness Character Monitoring

Our Services

At this refuge, we offer the following public services:  A visitor center, public hiking trails, environmental education, children's programming and special events, guided walks, and opportunities for nature viewing, photography, hunting and fishing.

Our Projects and Research

The Service manages fish and wildlife habitats considering the needs of all resources in decision-making. A requirement of the Refuge Improvement Act is to maintain the ecological health, diversity, and integrity of refuges. The following scientific areas of interest are not inclusive; they are but a sampling of the refuge's current efforts:

Erosion of Islands

Erosion of islands and banks, and sedimentation and siltation of shallow water embayment areas (specifically) and the river (in general) adversely affect water quality and the general bottom habitat conditions for mussels and other benthic invertebrates and fish populations. Sand and gravel dredging also physically impact island stability, and could damage all culturally important islands.

Invasive Species

The introduction and spread of invasive plants and aquatic species on Refuge lands and in the Ohio River threaten native riparian riparian
Definition of riparian habitat or riparian areas.

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vegetation and freshwater mussel species. Among the most recognized of these nuisance exotics are the plants "Japanese knotweed" and "mile-a-minute" as well as the zebra mussel. Invasive species cost our Nation's economy an estimated $123 billion annually and are second only to habitat destruction in threatening extinction of native species. 

Mussel Recovery

Mollusks on the Refuge include freshwater mussels (the most diverse group), aquatic snails, and terrestrial snails. There are currently 50 species of freshwater mussels remaining in the Ohio River today, and 38 of these have been collected on the Refuge so far (Appendix D). Historically, there were upwards of 80 species in the free-flowing Ohio River, but habitat changes over the past 100 years have resulted in the extinction of at least 3 species, and the extirpation of many more. In addition to the habitat and water quality problems which mussels have faced, add the new threat caused by the invasion of the exotic zebra mussel. Zebra mussels first entered the Refuge in 1993, and since that time, their density has exploded to 13,000 animals per square meter. Zebra mussels compete with native mussels for food and oxygen, interfere with their reproduction, and encrust native mussels so heavily that the native mussels cannot open and close their shell, burrow, or move effectively. It's easy to see why freshwater mussels are the most imperiled group of animals on the Refuge.

Every Refuge island has been surveyed at least once, and each one has some mussel fauna associated with the underwater habitat surrounding it. At least two federally endangered mussels occur on the Refuge (pink mucket and fanshell) in the Belleville, Racine, RC Byrd, and Greenup pools. The most diverse mussel bed is found at Muskingum Island, with 28 species and an average density of 12 live mussels per square meter. Mussels generally require clean-swept sand, gravel, cobble and boulder habitat, and well oxygenated and nutrient rich waters. These habitats are abundant around the islands.

Commercial harvest of mussels (primarily for the cultured pearl industry) is generally permitted in Kentucky waters, but not in the states of Pennsylvania, Ohio or West Virginia. However, there are sanctuaries in place adjacent to the Kentucky Refuge islands which prohibit commercial harvest from those areas.


Law Enforcement

Report all violations to the law enforcement office

24 hr mobile: 304-834-0449
Non-emergency office #: 304-375-2923 x 113

WHO: Description of the suspect, suspect vehicle
WHAT: what is the violation?
WHERE: Where did the violation occur?
WHEN: When did the violation occur?
HOW: How did the violation occur?

All reports are STRICTLY confidential because we need your help.

Law enforcement is an integral part of managing the National Wildlife Refuge System. Refuge law enforcement officers are responsible for upholding federal laws and regulations that protect natural resources, the public, and employees. These are our objectives:

  • To protect refuge visitors and employees from disturbance or harm by others.
  • To assist visitors in understanding refuge laws, regulations, and the reasons for them.
  • To enhance the management and protection of fish and wildlife resources on refuges.
  • To ensure the legally prescribed, equitable use of fish and wildlife resources on refuges.
  • To obtain compliance with laws and regulations necessary for the proper administration, management, and protection of the National Wildlife Refuge System.