About Us

War Horse National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1958 and consists of three separate land units: Wild Horse, 440 acres; War Horse, 1,152 acres; and Yellow Water, 1,640 acres. Ownership on the War Horse and Wild Horse Units is fragmented, so be sure to contact local landowners for access.

Vegetation for all units of War Horse National Wildlife Refuge consists mainly of mixed-grass prairie with a sagebrush sagebrush
The western United States’ sagebrush country encompasses over 175 million acres of public and private lands. The sagebrush landscape provides many benefits to our rural economies and communities, and it serves as crucial habitat for a diversity of wildlife, including the iconic greater sage-grouse…

Learn more about sagebrush
over story. The War Horse Unit has a unique plant community-soil association, a 225-acre ponderosa pine forest on fragile acidic shale soils. The pines exhibit slow growth rates, are short in stature and grow in dense stands, with mostly bare shale soils underneath the trees.

Wetlands associated with the units are frequently dry, but are very productive for waterfowl and shorebirds when they have water. The refuge serves a staging and nesting area for migrating waterfowl, shorebirds, and other migratory birds. It also provides habitat for resident game species including pronghorn, mule deer, greater sage grouse, sharp-tailed grouse, and gray partridge. The refuge is open to hunting of migratory game birds, upland game birds, and big game as well as fishing, hiking, and wildlife observation.

War Horse National Wildlife Refuge is one of four satellite national wildlife refuges in central Montana that are part of the Charles M. Russell Complex. Satellite refuges are unstaffed national wildlife refuges. War Horse National Wildlife Refuge is managed by staff of Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge in Lewistown, Montana.

Our Mission

The mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System is to administer a national network of lands and waters for the conservation, management and, where appropriate, restoration of the fish, wildlife and plant resources and their habitats within the United States for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.

Our History

War Horse National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1958 as a “refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife” through a transfer of lands by the authority of the Bankhead-Jones Farm Tenant Act. This Act authorized the federal government to acquire damaged lands (lands homesteaded and later abandoned), rehabilitate them, and use them for various purposes. These lands were received in scattered parcels of various sizes. War Horse National Wildlife Refuge consists of three separate land units: Wild Horse, 440 acres; War Horse, 1,152 acres; and Yellow Water, 1,640 acres.

Other Facilities in this Complex

This refuge is managed as part of the Charles M. Russell Complex. A National Wildlife Refuge Complex is an administrative grouping of two or more refuges, wildlife management areas or other refuge conservation areas that are primarily managed from a central office location.  Refuges are grouped into a complex because they occur in a similar ecological region, such as a watershed or specific habitat type, and have a related purpose and management needs. Typically, a project leader or complex manager oversees the general management of all refuges within the complex and refuge managers are responsible for operations at specific refuges. Supporting staff, composed of administrative, law enforcement, refuge manager, biological, fire, visitor services, and maintenance professionals, are centrally located and support all refuges within the complex.

Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge is the only staffed refuge in the Complex. Other refuges in the Charles M. Russell Complex include: