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.

Moist Soil Units

Water is a critical component of wetland management, including not only quantity but also timing and availability. Historically, due to the lack of a dependable water source, the refuge could not provide quality waterfowl habitat. It wasn't until 1992, when Congress passed the Central Valley Project Improvement Act that the refuge was provided with a reliable annual water allocation. Additionally, through a partnership with Ducks Unlimited in 1994, a deep well was drilled that produces sufficient water for the refuge to flood and maintain approximately 300 acres of seasonal wetlands.

All wetlands are seasonal in nature. Fall flood-up begins in mid-August and reaches a peak by October. Habitat is maintained through February after which a slow draining of the wetland begins. Selected units are irrigated during the late spring and early summer months to encourage plants to grow to provide food for wintering and migrating birds the following fall. Moist soil areas of Pixley Refuge are covered by shallow water depths (less than 6" deep). They are maintained by irrigation in the late spring and summer to encourage food plant growth. Swamp timothy, watergrass, and sprangletop typically grow in moist soil areas. Once every five years, moist soil units undergo a removal of all vegetation and a re-working of the soil to improve aeration and fertility.


Riparian areas at the refuge are filled with plants and trees that provide protective cover and nesting sites for many wildlife species. Willow and cottonwood trees provide shade and feeding areas for migrating birds, as well as year-round habitat for a host of aquatic animals. These areas play an important role in providing water to resident wildlife during the late spring and summer months.


Uplands are not irrigated and primarily get their water from rain. These areas include a wide variety of plant communities such as non-native annual grass and alkali playas with vernal pools scattered throughout. Management of these areas primarily consists of cattle grazing from November through April to help provide optimum habitat for blunt-nosed leopard lizards, Tipton kangaroo rat, and San Joaquin kit fox.

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 passively. The management tools used are aimed at ensuring a balanced conservation approach where both wildlife and people will benefit.

Invasive Plants

Salt cedar is a deciduous shrub native to Southern Europe into Mongolia, Tibet, Central China, and North Korea. It was first introduced in the United States in the early 1800s and has since become a major problem in many arid areas of the arid regions of the southwest. Fortunately, this 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
is seen on the refuge as isolated plants or smaller stands. Control methods range from mechanical removal coupled with herbicide treatment and foliar herbicide treatments. Refuge staff are working to eradicate salt cedar, as it competes with native plants for water and nutrients.

Refuge Planning 

National Wildlife Refuge planning sets the broad vision for refuge management and the goals, objectives, strategies, and actions required to achieve it. Planning ensures that each refuge meets its individual purposes, contributes to the Refuge System’s mission and priorities, is consistent with other applicable laws and policies, and enhances conservation benefits beyond refuge boundaries. 

Comprehensive Conservation Plans 

Comprehensive Conservation Plans (CCPs) are the primary planning documents for National Wildlife Refuges. As outlined in the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act, as amended, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is required to develop CCPs that guide refuge management for the next 15 years. CCPs articulate the Service’s contributions to meeting refuge purposes and the National Wildlife Refuge System mission. CCPs serve as a bridge between broad, landscape-level plans developed by other agencies and stakeholders and the more detailed step-downs that stem from Refuge CCPs.  

The 2005 Final Comprehensive Conservation Plan for Kern and Pixley National Wildlife Refuges can be found here: https://ecos.fws.gov/ServCat/Reference/Profile/1444 

Step-down Plans 

CCP step-down plans guide refuge-level programs for: (1) conserving natural resources (e.g., fish, wildlife, plants, and the ecosystems they depend on for habitat); (2) stewarding other special values of the refuge (e.g., cultural or archeological resources, wilderness, wild and scenic rivers, etc.); and (3) engaging visitors and the community in conservation, including providing opportunities for wildlife-dependent recreation. Like CCPs, step-down plans contribute to the implementation of relevant landscape plans by developing SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound) objectives, strategies, implementation schedules, and decision support tools to fulfill refuge visions and goals. This ensures that refuges are managed in a landscape context and that conservation benefits extend beyond refuge boundaries.  

Our Services

Two young participants engage with 'ducks on a stick' environmental education display
Our Environmental Education Program is free and includes staff led field trips which may last one to two hours.

A primary objective of the National Wildlife Refuges like Kern and Pixley is to provide an optimal environmental educational experience to all interested audiences. Our...

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

All areas of the refuge are closed to the public unless otherwise explicitly posted as a nature trail, photo blind, or parking lot. Some areas are closed seasonally and are posted as such.