Iowa Wetland Management District

Ducks on a pond at Iowa Wetland Management District

Iowa Wetland Management District is operated out of the same office as Union Slough National Wildlife Refuge. However, the Wetland Management District is different than most other wetland management districts in that the Iowa Department of Natural Resources directly manages many of the Waterfowl Production Areas in the district. The District covers 35 counties in Iowa with 75 WPAs scattered across 18 of them. Most of these WPAs are small, from 35 to 500 acres but some have grown considerably with at least one being over 2,000 acres in size. In total, there are more than 25,000 acres under management. The acquisition strategy is a mix of conservation easements and fee simple purchases. Most acquisitions are meant to increase the holdings in certain wetland complexes, not to build large contiguous chunks of wildlife refuge property (other than the present holding at Union Slough). Some of the WPAs have been recognized by the American Audubon Society as part of twelve greater Important Bird Areas and five greater Iowa Bird Conservation Areas.

The properties that make up the Iowa Wetland Management District are all along the southern edge of the Prairie Pothole Region, an area that is estimated to produce 50% of the ducks in North America. When Euro-Americans first arrived in the area 200 years ago, they set about draining virtually all the wetlands in the Prairie Pothole Region to use for farming. As Fish & Wildlife acquires property, staff working with Iowa DNR work to restore those wetlands to their previous glory. Staff also works to restore the tallgrass prairie habitat that was also destroyed in the push to develop more farmland.

Hunting and fishing are allowed on Iowa Wetland Management district properties in accordance with federal, state and district-specific regulations. For the most part, all other human visitation is restricted to the facilities at Union Slough National Wildlife Refuge. The District is presently working on its Comprehensive Conservation Plan and things may change when that is finalized and released. that said, nowhere are camping, campfires, off-road vehicle use or target shooting permitted. Dog training is also not allowed.

The refuge office is open from 7:30 am to 4 pm, Mondays through Fridays except for Federal holidays. The office offers interactive exhibits and a diorama displaying the wildlife and habitat available at both Union slough and at the various Waterfowl Production Areas that make up the district.

Tallgrass prairie at Iowa Wetland Management District
Tallgrass prairie at Iowa Wetland Management District
Upper photos courtesy of Erich Gilbert, US Fish & Wildlife Service
Lower photo courtesy of US Fish & Wildlife Service