Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge Complex
Pacific Southwest Region
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Refuge Habitats

The Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1930 by executive order as a breeding ground for birds and wild animals. Primary objectives on the Refuge include endangered species production and maintenance, sensitive species production and maintenance, wintering waterfowl maintenance, and other migratory bird management. Refuge habitats are intensively managed. Ponds, forests, and agricultural fields are designed, developed and manipulated to achieve wildlife objectiveHabitats.  (USFWS)s.



The Sonny Bono Salton Sea NWR has 826 acres of manageable wetland units, which are managed for resident and migratory bird species such as waterfowl, shorebirds and wading birds. In addition, specified impoundments are managed as permanent wetlands to provide critical nesting and year-round habitat for the endangered Yuma clapper rail. Refuge wetlands provide nesting habitat for a variety of other species, including the least bittern, white-faced ibis, black-necked stilt and American avocet. All wetlands are flooded from water supplied by the Imperial Irrigation District. This water is termed “class 1” irrigation water, which is free of fertilizers, toxic pesticides and high levels of salts that are common in agricultural drain water.

Wetland management often entails growing wetland plant species through periodic flash flooding in the spring and summer months. This moist soil management is geared towards the propagation of plants favorable for food and cover such as:

* alkali bulrush (Scirpus robustus) ..........................* water grass (Echinochloa crusgalli)

* sprangle-top grass (Leptochloa spp.) ............... ..* wigeongrass (Ruppia maritima)

* swamp timothy (Heleochloa schoenoides)............* cattail (Typha latifolia)
Bird Collage.  (USFWS)
Salt cedar (Tamarix pentandra) and Sesbania (Sesbania exalta) are problem weed species that often accompany moist soil management on the Refuge.

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Tree Rows

Refuge tree rows managed for native species and biodiversity fall into this category. Species planted include honey mesquite, screwbean mesquite, blue palo verde, Mexican palo verde, fairy duster, sweet acacia, catclaw acacia, and desert ironwood. Tree rows continue to receive additional plantings throughout the year in order to add density and width, and to better meet wildlife and habitat objectives.

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Fields.  (USFWS)
Wildlife management at the Sonny Bono Salton Sea NWR involves an intensive farming program to provide suitable forage for over 30,000 wintering geese and other migratory birds and wildlife. Croplands comprise of 869 acres on the Refuge, with many fields cooperatively farmed by local farmers.

Crops planted on Refuge land includes alfalfa, wheat, rye grass, milo, millet, and sudan grass. With use restrictions on the use of certain pesticides on the Refuge, infestations of whiteflies, and the booming prices of sudan grass, many cooperative farmers have switched from planting alfalfa to sudan grass over the years. Sudan grass grows like a weed in the Imperial Valley and requires little to no use of pesticides.

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Last updated: May 23, 2011