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 activities:

  • Prescribed fire
  • Water level management
  • Forest management
  • Invasive species management
  • People management
  • Research, inventorying 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 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:

Prescribed fire

Fire has always had an important role in forest health. For millennia it has shaped the landscape leading to the current diversity of trees, shrubs and plant life present on the refuge. Historically, lightning-caused fires naturally occurred during dry periods and created the present mix of forest and wetland types. Today a mix of prescribed fire and natural fire are used to maintain the refuge's diversity.

Water level management

Water levels are managed on more than 6,400-acres of refuge pools. Water levels 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.

Forest management

The refuge uses timber management as a tool to restore historic forests in many ways. In the late 1800s and early 1900s lumberjacks cut down forests throughout Michigan in a time known as the Great Cutover. On the refuge valuable trees that were close to roads and streams were cut, mostly red and white pine and hardwood trees. This changed the forests from trees that were a variety of ages and types to trees that were one age and mostly the same species. Pockets of untouched forest remain on the refuge and we use those for a reference of what our forests should look like. Using different timber management techniques, we hope to restore forests to pre-European settlement forest types.

Timber harvest

Timber harvests on the refuge have been used in multiple ways including:

  • Helping speed a forests transition from one species of tree to another for example from a jack pine forest to red and white pine forest.
  • Cutting trees out of forests that have trees that are all the same age to help create a forest that has trees of different ages.
  • Stimulating aspen trees to send out suckers and help speed old farmlands transformation into forest.
  • Reducing competition by thinning trees around mature mother trees to help them produce more seeds.

Tree girdling and snags

Healthy forests have living and dead trees, also known as snags. After the Great Cutover not many dead trees remained and slash or branches that were stripped from trees were burned. This changed the forests. One technique to restore dead trees to the forest mix is to create snags by girdling trees. Bark is removed down to the heartwood of the tree all the way around the trunk of the tree. This kills the tree and creates a snag. Snags are important because:

  • They provide nesting sites 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 glossy buckthorn, reed canary grass, purple loosestrife, leafy spurge, garlic mustard, non-native phragmites, multiflora rose, spotted knapweed (at the Whitefish Point Unit it seems to stay on road shoulders on the main portion of the refuge), Tartarian honeysuckle, forget-me-nots and sea lamprey.

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 the refuge’s pools? Limiting access to the pools allows birds like the common loon to have an undisturbed place to nest and raise young. Why can’t anglers use lead tackle or shot? Because birds and other wildlife may ingest the weights or shot and get sick with lead poisoning. As you can see, 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. The first scientific paper involving the refuge was posted in 1947 with dozens following including peer-reviewed publications, master’s theses and doctoral dissertations. 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. Therefore, the refuge has established several long-term vegetation monitoring plots. Some examples of monitoring programs we take part in guide population-wide wildlife management goals and objectives include fall and spring Sandhill Crane Surveys, the American Woodcock Singing-ground Survey and the U.S. Geological Survey's Breeding Bird Survey. Monitoring programs that aid our state partners include the Frog and Toad Survey, the Sharp-tailed Grouse Lek Survey and the Ruffed Grouse Drumming Survey.

Most inventory and monitoring data are provided to existing national, regional or state programs. Three bird species, common loon, osprey and trumpeter swans, are monitored annually on refuge pools to help us make local management decisions.

Learn more about the management of the refuge by reviewing the 2009 Seney National Wildlife Refuge Comprehensive Conservation Plan, the 2013 Habitat Management Plan and the 2016 Inventory and Monitoring Plan.

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. Some other duties include patrolling closed areas or Wilderness areas, maintaining relationships with neighboring landowners, maintaining refuge boundaries and participating in public events related to refuge issues.

Law enforcement issues should be referred the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service tips line at 1-844-FWS-TIPS (397-8477).

Laws and Regulations

The Seney National Wildlife Refuge welcomes visitors. We want you to enjoy your visit while keeping the refuge in pristine condition for you, future guests and the wildlife and plants that call the area home. During your visit we ask you to follow these regulations which help us ensure our mission.