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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Waterfowl Production on the Woodworth Station
in South-central North Dakota, 1965-1981


The maintenance of healthy wetland and upland environments and desired populations of waterfowl depends on increasingly sophisticated management programs for public and private lands. Knowledgeable professionals and others must learn to work together to make such programs successful. New management techniques, properly researched and tested, need to be made available to managers and incorporated into broader programs as quickly as possible. These principles were incorporated into the initial program of the Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center when it was established in 1963. My good fortune was to have been involved in the early planning and direction of that program.

One program concept was to have a sizable tract of land in the Missouri Coteau, within 80 km (50 miles) of the Center, for conducting long-term research on habitat change and response by prairie ducks. The area was to be representative of the prairie pothole region, in an area of grasslands and mixed agriculture, with an accessible site for construction of field laboratory facilities, and suitable for demonstration projects. The Woodworth site was selected and it centered around an initial group of waterfowl production areas, eventually enlarged to the present block of 1,070 ha (2,650 acres).

The Woodworth Station's research and management programs evolved rapidly under the able direction of the authors of this publication. They had a special interest in developing new wetland enhancement and upland habitat management techniques that could be applied to broader land use practices and programs, for the purposes of increasing production and survival of prairie ducks, other migratory birds, and resident wildlife. These biologists were also keen on speedily translating research findings to management applications to aid wildlife managers and administrators.

During the first 17 years of the program, the authors were eminently successful in achieving many of the initial research and management objectives described in this publication. The Station developed an international reputation for its work in developing dense nesting cover, maintaining desired native grassland succession through controlled burning, determining optimum frequency for habitiat manipulation, identifying the effects of mammalian predation on ground nesting ducks and other birds, and in understanding the relation of wet and dry cycles to waterfowl production and waterfowl nesting in croplands. Other objectives require future emphasis, such as estalishing demonstration areas to better acquaint scientists, wildlife managers, agriclturalists, and farmers with land use practices that would maximize benefits to prairie ducks and other wildlife. As with any research program, increasing demands for new investigations were not always matched by additional funds and personnel.

Nevertheless, during the past 28 years, the Woodworth Station has made a significant contribution to waterfowl management, especially in the Prairie Region of the United States and Canada. The scientific publications produced by researchers and managers associated with the station further verifies that contribution. During the period, approximately 300 graduate students and visiting scientists have used the facility. In 1990, the Station also became headquarters for the Chase Lake Project of the Prairie Pothole Joint Venture under the North American Waterfowl Management Plan.

I would especially note that the station program demonstrated the value of long-term studies and systematic monitoring of changes in habitat, climatic conditions, and concurrent responses by prairie ducks and other wildlife populations. This value will become increasingly important during the next 25 to 50 years. It is essential, therefore, that the annual monitoring program and periodic habitat manipulations be continued either by research or management personnel.

The next generation of waterfowl research biologists, wildlife managers and administrators, and those who follow will owe a debt of gratitude to the forsight and capabilities of the authors, and to those who assisted them in carrying out the original mission of the station. I consider it an honor and a pleasure to have been associated with the early team.

Harvey K. Nelson
Executive Director
North American Waterfowl and Wetlands Office
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington, D.C.

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