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. We use the following conservation tools at the refuge:

  • Water level management
  • Forest management
  • Invasive species management
  • People management
  • Research, inventory and monitoring

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. At this field station our conservation toolbox includes:

Water level management

Water levels are managed on refuge pools. Water depths are manipulated to provide a variety of wetland conditions for plants and animals. By raising and lowering these water levels, natural wetland cycles are mimicked.

Leaving snags

Healthy forests and oak savanna have living and dead trees, also known as snags. Snags are important because:

  • They provide nesting sites for many species and homes for wildlife
  • As dead trees lose their branches and fall the logs are homes for insects and salamanders
  • Help create new soil as they decay

Invasive species management

An 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
can be any kind of life - plant, animal, fungus - that does not normally live in the area but starts to spread and becomes abundant. These species have a negative impact on their new environment. The refuge has identified several species which it monitors and treats to slow or stop the spread including buckthorn and Canada thistle.

People management

National wildlife refuges are where wildlife comes first. Every activity that people can participate in on the refuge has to be determined compatible with the reason the refuge was founded. Have you ever wondered why people are not allowed to paddle Rice Lake? Limiting access to the pool allows birds, including trumpeter swans and American bitterns, to have an undisturbed place to nest and raise young. Overall, we try to strike a balance between human users and undisturbed habitat for wildlife.

Research, inventorying and monitoring

The refuge has a long tradition of hosting a variety of research projects that have assisted in the management of the refuge. We actively engage researchers through our special use permit program.

The refuge participates in several inventory and monitoring programs. These programs help guide wildlife management actions taken by the refuge and its conservation partners. Most wildlife management is conducted by managing habitat. Some examples of monitoring programs we take part in guide population-wide wildlife management goals and objectives include fall waterfowl counts and the U.S. Geological Survey Breeding Bird Survey.

Most inventory and monitoring data are provided to existing national, regional or state programs.

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

Franklin D. Roosevelt established the refuge by Executive Order in 1935 as a refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife.