Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
U.S. Prairie Pothole Joint Venture
Implementation Guidelines for Management Strategies
Protection and management of wetlands will ensure maintenance of public values
such as wildlife habitat, reduced soil erosion, lessened flood damage, enhanced
water quality, reduced pollution, and increased recreational and educational opportunities.
STRATEGIES AND GUIDELINES
(Easements or Fee Title)
- Habitat acquisition priorities should focus on providing a complex of
various wetland types from ephemeral to permanent interspersed with grassland
to fulfill habitat requirements for a wide variety of wildlife species.
- Acquisition of land in fee title, and/or easement from willing sellers,
will provide secure protection and management capabilities for wetlands
and associated grasslands.
- Acquired tracts will be managed by a range of agencies from Federal, state,
and county government to organizations with land management capabilities.
- Select areas where existing cover or potential for cover development will
provide secure nesting sites.
- Where loss of wetlands is imminent or potential for loss is high.
- Target wetlands near areas where nesting habitat treatments have been
applied. This protects wetlands in areas where money has been spent to provide
for increased recruitment.
Restoration of wetland complexes that provide a variety of wetland habitat
types on public and private land will maximize natural diversity, and offer
suitable breeding and migrational habitat for many different wildlife species.
Vegetative response to wetland restoration will vary among areas depending
on time since drainage, past agricultural practices, and effectiveness of drainage.
Generally, restored wetlands that were drained within 30 years provide a greater
coverage of emergent vegetation and plant species diversity than restoration
of wetlands drained over 30 years ago. Wetland basins that have been reflooded
periodically will maintain a more diversified and viable seed bank, and should
be targeted for restoration.
- Give top priority to areas where quality nesting cover is abundant, nest
success is high (≥20 percent based on Mallard Model or nest studies),
and wetland numbers are low.
- Pair habitat (small wetlands) should be restored in areas that have adequate
- Brood marshes should be developed in areas with adequate pair ponds.
- Exceptions to these rules could be made for specific wetlands that provide
all the requirements for certain species such as canvasbacks.
- The size of restored wetlands will be partly determined by the previously
existing wetland, cost, objective, and numerous other factors. Data on pair/wetland
relationships indicate that more pairs per acre can be attracted to several
small ponds, say 1 to 5 acres compared to fewer large ponds. In other words,
five 2-acre ponds will likely attract more pairs that one 10-acre pond.
- Larger wetlands (≥20 acres) provide a higher number of breeding bird
species, because they offer greater structural diversity of vegetation,
a larger food base, and a more reliable water supply.
This treatment involves creating new wetlands where none existed previously.
Techniques could include blocking/damming water ways, dredging ponds, or diking
low lying areas.
- Create wetlands in association with high quality nesting cover and where
nest success is high.
- Avoid watersheds where soil erosion in the drainage is likely to fill
in the wetland.
- Target areas where ratio of watershed to surface area of created wetlands
- Target areas where complementary ponds (brood, pair) exist or will be
built to provide a wetland complex. Do not build isolated ponds.
- Avoid areas near riparian habitat (mink habitat).
- Do not build dugouts adjacent to (edge of) natural semipermanent wetlands
(dugouts of this type attract mink and do not provide sufficient shallow
- Plan pond to provide mix of semipermanent or better water depth and also
ample shallow zones.
- Target areas with fertile soil.
Seasonally Flooded Wetlands
This treatment involves installing water control structures in low lying hay
meadows that are naturally or artificially drained. The process results in mutual
benefits. Water is trapped on hayland and provides wetland habitat attractive
to breeding ducks similar to naturally occurring seasonal wetlands. Later in
the season when many nests are near hatching, water is drawn off these areas
to allow increased vegetation growth and haying. This action allows increased
hay production in many years.
- Locate in areas with other pair wetlands including semi-permanent type.
- Target areas with brood water within one mile.
- Select areas that have sufficient quality nesting cover to result in high
nest success (use Mallard Model).
- Other Considerations
- Control structure should not allow the water to be drained below its previous
- For breeding pairs, drawdown should occur between June 1 to July 15.
- Water control structures can be used when possible to increase management
capabilities through water level management capabilities through water level
management on individual basins or entire wetland complexes. Timing, water
depth, and duration of drawdowns or flooding are all important considerations
to successfully manage for migratory birds. Managing wetlands for 30-50 percent
emergent cover (hemi-marsh) through drawdowns for vegetative regeneration
is important for maintaining suitable vegetation structure. Water level manipulation
is important to maintaining critical brood habitat for birds as well as an
abundant source of invertebrates for food.
- Cattails become so dense in some wetlands that those wetlands become virtually
useless to ducks. Various techniques such as burning, forced grazing, discing,
herbicides, mowing and water manipulation are used to reduce or eliminate
cattail growth from some portion of the wetland and provide open water. The
objective is to create a hemi-marsh situation ideally with a moat of open
water around cattails in the wetland center.
- Select areas with existing nesting habitat other than the cattails marsh
or use in combination with upland habitat improvement, nest structures or
islands. (Exception to this may be justifiable if canvasbacks or redheads
are targeted. If so, locate where canvasback or redhead occur.)
- Select cattail marshes where water is virtually non-existent.
Contact the Service, USDA, or Ducks Unlimited, Inc. for details on techniques.
Back to Appendix D
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