What We Do

A Refuge and Breeding Ground for Native Birds

Established among the prairie potholes of the Mission Valley to be “….a refuge and breeding grounds for native birds”, Pablo National Wildlife Refuge provides excellent breeding and staging habitat for abundant waterfowl and other water birds. Service staff conduct surveys of waterfowl with spring pair counts (to get an idea of how many nests there may be) and summer brood counts (to determine number of surviving young per nest). Other water birds, such as great blue herons, terns, shorebirds, and migratory birds of all kinds find the Refuge to be a good home. 

Invasive Nonnative Plants

Intrusions of non-native plants bring about varying degrees of threat to this wetland habitat. In addition to the desirability for control of exotics, it is also required by Montana Law. Refuge staff are diligent in the monitoring of noxious weeds, using Integrated Pest Management to control such non-native plants as yellow flag iris, purple loosestrife, whitetop and spotted knapweed. Russian Olive, a non-native tree, can damage dikes and dams with its strong root system.

Integrated Pest Management includes of a variety of control methods fitted to the plant, the season and the surrounding habitat and consists of herbicides, mowing, hand pulling, and biological control. Biological control using insects have been part of this IPM since 1948. Control insects are chosen to reduce vigor of selected weed species and are extensively tested to assure they will not harm any other plants. Often more than one method is used, such as mowing a plant while it is in bloom (to control seed production), then spraying in the fall when it may be more vulnerable to the herbicide. 

Management and Conservation

Pablo National Wildlife Refuge, as part of the Northwest Montana Wetland Management District has started its Comprehensive Conservation Plan process. Check back for a information, timeline, 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.

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.

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

Pablo 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 Pablo 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.

Passes and Licenses

Under a cooperative agreement with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT), the general Tribal recreation fee is waived for non-consumptive use of Pablo National Wildlife Refuge by non-members of the CSKT. 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 Pablo 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.