Monitoring and research at Walnut Creek National Wildlife Refuge
Walnut Creek National Wildlife Refuge-Prairie Learning Center (Walnut Creek or the Refuge) is one of the newest additions to the National Wildlife Refuge System, which consists of over 480 units throughout the United States operated by the U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service (the Service). Located about 20 miles east of Des Moines, Iowa, the Refuge has an approved acquisition boundary containing 8,654 acres (Figure 1). Acquisition is from willing sellers only, and to date the Service has purchased approximately 5,000 acres. The acquisition boundary encompasses about 43% of the watershed of Walnut Creek, which bisects the Refuge and drains into the Des Moines River to the southeast. Approximately 25%-30% of the Walnut Creek watershed is downstream of the Refuge.
As authorized by Congress in 1990, the purposes of the Refuge are to (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1992):
• restore native tallgrass pairie, wetland, and woodland habitats for breeding and migratory waterfowl and resident wildlife;
• serve as a major environmental education center providing opportunities for study;
• provide outdoor recreation benefits to the public; and
• provide assistance to local landowners to improve their lands for wildlife habitat.
To implement these purposes authorized by Congress, the Refuge has established the goal of recreating as nearly as possible the natural communities that existed at the time of settlement by Euro-Americans (circa 1840). Current land use is largely agricultural, including 69% cropland, 17% grazed pasture, and 7.5% grassland (dominantly brome) enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program). About 1,395 acres of relict native communities also exist on the Refuge, including prairie (725 acres), oak savanna and woodland (450 acres), and riparian or wetland areas (220 acres). Some of these relicts are highly restorable; others contain only a few prairie plants in a matrix of brome and will be more difficult to restore. When the process of restoration (management and enhancement of existing remnant communities) and reconstruction (reestablishment of native communities on agricultural sites) is completed, it is anticipated that the Refuge will consist of approximately 5,900 acres of prairie, 2,000 acres of oak savanna or woodland, and 750 acres of wetland and riparian communities. Ecological restoration and reconstruction at this scale in the tallgrass prairie ecosystem is unprecedented in the United States.
|Monitoring and research at Walnut Creek National Wildlife Refuge
|Fish and Wildlife Service
|Fort Collins, CO
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