What We Do

Stewart Lake National Wildlife Refuge was established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt through executive order 8662 "as a refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife". Habitat management practices are aimed at providing suitable nesting and brood rearing habitat for waterfowl, as well as other wildlife. To help plants and wildlife, Refuge staff use a variety of habitat management tools to maintain, enhance, or recover plant and wildlife values. Refuge staff carefully consider any management techniques and employ them in varying degrees according to the situation.  Several habitat management tools are used to maintain and enhance habitat, including grazing, prescribed burning, noxious weed control, mowing, seeding and the most important tool for Refuge wetlands – water management.

Management and Conservation

Wildlife Managers use a variety of tools to manage habitat for many species of wildlife.

Prescribed Burning

Controlled burns are often called prescribed burns because wildlife managers write a careful prescription of the weather conditions, equipment, and people necessary to safely conduct a burn that will have the desired ecological effect. Fire is used to help wildlife and wildlife habitat by stimulating prairie plant growth, increasing soil nutrients, and setting back the invading trees and other species not adapted to life on the prairie.

Prairie animals are also adapted to fire. Some go underground during the fire. Others simply fly or run away from the fire. Sometimes, birds lose their nests to fire, but native grassland species have an adaptation for this: they quickly respond by building a new nest and laying a new clutch of eggs. While there is some short-term harm to some nests or animals, these same species depend on fire for their survival, since many prairie plants and animals cannot survive long, once shrubs or trees take over their grassland habitat.

Rotational Livestock Grazing

Refuge managers work together with local ranchers to mimic natural disturbances that were once caused by large herds of free-ranging bison and elk on the prairie. Through livestock grazing, invasive cool-season grasses and other invasive plants can be stressed, which favors native grasses and forbs such as western wheatgrass, green needlegrass, blue grama, little bluestem, purple coneflowers, goldenrods and low growing shrubs. Grazing can greatly influence the structure structure
Something temporarily or permanently constructed, built, or placed; and constructed of natural or manufactured parts including, but not limited to, a building, shed, cabin, porch, bridge, walkway, stair steps, sign, landing, platform, dock, rack, fence, telecommunication device, antennae, fish cleaning table, satellite dish/mount, or well head.

Learn more about structure
and diversity of grassland communities.

Water Level Management

To foster desired plant growth, water levels on wetlands are carefully monitored and controlled with water control structures. Management objectives focus on providing habitat and food for nesting, rearing, and migrating birds. An especially important plant, sago pondweed, provides shoots and tubers as a food source for birds. The invertebrates these plants support are also an important food source for waterfowl, shorebirds, and many other wildlife species, especially when nurturing broods.

Invasive Species Control

Invasive species are plants and animals that are not native to an area, and can cause economic or environmental harm. One of the largest threats to public lands in the United States, next to habitat loss, is the invasion of invasive plant and animal species. If left unchecked, 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 alter habitat and water quality.

Refuge managers use livestock grazing, burning, chemical application, and insects to control invasive plants such as smooth brome grass, Kentucky bluegrass, Canada thistle, absinth wormwood, leafy spurge, Russian olive, and Siberian elm trees.

Our Services

Stewart Lake National Wildlife Refuge is closed to all public use and does not have any facilities on site. The Refuge is managed as part of the Audubon Wetland Management District.

Our Projects and Research

Our National Wildlife Refuges are places for everyone to learn about and discover the outdoors. This opportunity is utilized by numerous local grad students from local universities and other government organizations over the years, researching a wide variety of wildlife and plant species on the Refuge. If interested in performing a research project on refuge lands please contact:  Audubon National Wildlife Refuge (audubon@fws.gov). 

Law Enforcement

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service law enforcement officers have a wide variety of duties and responsibilities. Officers help people 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, maintaining relationships with neighboring landowners, maintaining refuge boundaries and participating in public events related to refuge issues.

Laws and Regulations

The National Wildlife Refuge System, the only system of Federal lands devoted specifically to wildlife, is a network of diverse and strategically located habitats. More than 565 national wildlife refuges and thousands of waterfowl production areas across the United States teem with millions of migratory birds. They serve as havens for hundreds of endangered species and host an enormous variety of other plants and animals. Over 39 million people visit units of the National Wildlife Refuge System each year to enjoy a wide range of wildlife related recreational opportunities. To maintain this system, the passage and creation of laws and regulations, such as the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act, ensures a strong and singular wildlife conservation mission.

Stewart Lake National Wildlife Refuge is closed to all public use.