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.

Farming for Wildlife

Optima National Wildlife Refuge provides a small amount of food crops planted just for wildlife. Rye is the primary crop planted and provides food and cover for resident wildlife. 

Invasive Species Management

Exotic and invasive species invasive species
An invasive species is any plant or animal that has spread or been introduced into a new area where they are, or could, cause harm to the environment, economy, or human, animal, or plant health. Their unwelcome presence can destroy ecosystems and cost millions of dollars.

Learn more about invasive species
are plants and animals that come from somewhere else and can take over an area by pushing out the native species. Some exotic invasive plants found at Optima National Wildlife Refuge are saltcedar, johnsongrass, kochia, and cheatgrass. These non-native plants do not provide good habitat for our native wildlife, and the refuge works throughout the year to control these species. Non-native animals can also be found on the refuge. Domestic dogs and cats are sometimes dumped here, and they can be extremely harmful to native animals. It is illegal to release domestic animals onto any National Wildlife Refuge. 

Prescribed Fire

The refuge encompasses more than 1000 acres of grasslands. The mixed-grass prairie native to western Oklahoma is a fire-adapted ecosystem. Grasslands existed for thousands of years with regular wildfires that helped maintain the open grasslands by keeping out many trees. The refuge conducts prescribed burns to keep grasslands open and free of invasive trees such as eastern redcedar. The Zone Fire Crew from Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge near Lawton, Oklahoma along with refuge staff conduct burns according to burn plans. They also work with our local Volunteer Fire Departments in the event of a wildfire. 

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

Observe wildlife from a safe distance. Young animals should be left alone. Help protect resources. All plants, wildlife, and cultural features on the refuge are protected and it is illegal to remove them.