Civilian Conservation Corps heading to work

Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) members heading to work at Seney NWR, circa 1936.

Seney National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1935 for the protection and production of migratory birds and other wildlife. Today the refuge is comprised of a rich mosaic of marshes, swamps, bogs, grasslands, and forests. Nearly two-thirds of the Refuge is classified as wetland.

Over a century ago, logging operations altered the landscape of the Upper Peninsula's great forests. The ring of the lumberman's axe echoed through the forests as local mills depleted the region's valuable supply of red and white pine. After the pine forests were cut, mill owners turned their axes and saws to the Refuge's northern hardwood and swamp conifer communities.

Following the lumbering operations, fires were often set to clear away the debris. Some of these fires burned deep into the organic soil, damaging its quality and killing the seeds that would have produced a new forest. On many areas of the Refuge, the scars from these lumbering operations remain visible to this day.

After the fires, a land development company dug many miles of drainage ditches throughout Seney. This drained acreage was then sold using extravagant promises of agricultural productivity. But the new owners quickly learned that these promises were unfounded. One by one, the farms were abandoned, and the exploited lands reverted to state ownership.

In 1934, the Michigan Conservation Department recommended to the Federal Government that the Seney area be developed for wildlife. This proposal was accepted and Seney National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1935.

Physical development and restoration of the Refuge land began soon after establishment. With the aid of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and the Work Projects Administration (WPA), an intricate system of dikes, water control structures, canals, and roads were built. This system now impounds over 7,000 acres of open water in 26 major pools. These wetlands make Seney National Wildlife Refuge a great place to watch wildlife!