Audubon
National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) was established in 1956 superimposed on lands
acquired by the

Corps’
Garrison Dam and Reservoir Project, the second of the main stem Missouri
River Pick-Sloan reservoirs.

Lake
Audubon (a sub-impoundment of Lake Sakakawea) was created by an earth-filled
embankment that

carries
US Highway 83, Central Pacific Railroad tracks, Western Area Power Administration
and Otter Tail

Power
lines. Water level of Lake Audubon is maintained by pumping water from Lake
Sakakawea via the Snake

Creek
pumping plant or natural inflows through Snake Creek and other drainages. The
14,735 acre Refuge is

managed
by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service(FWS) and was established as mitigation
for wildlife habitat

destroyed
by the filling of Lake Sakakawea behind Garrison Dam.  It is located on the south half of Lake

Audubon,
which also serves as the main supply reservoir for the Garrison Diversion
Irrigation Project (GDIP).

The
north half of Lake Audubon is managed by the North Dakota Game and Fish Department
as a public use

Wildlife
Management Area (WMA). During the summer months (spring ice melt to Labor
Day), Lake Audubon

is
maintained at an elevation of 1847.0 feet Mean Sea Level (MSL) to provide
adequate water supply for the

GDIP.
The Lake elevation is reduced to 1845.0 MSL during the fall and winter to
reduce damage to islands and

shorelines
from ice gouging. As of 2008, there were 85 islands (409.66 acres) on the
refuge side of Lake Audubon, ranging from a few square feet to almost 80 acres
in size. Some of these islands no longer exist above 1847 MSL (summer lake
elevation). Since 1993, there were 13 islands created, comprised of 14.25
acres, within the refuge boundary with all but one created in wetlands
adjacent to Lake Audubon.

Conservation Issues

Piping plover nest on sparsely vegetated
shoreline habitat of Lake Audubon and adjacent wetlands within the

Refuge boundary. Habitat loss associated
with erosion, habitat succession, plant succession, and invasive

species encroachment occur throughout the
year. Erosion has been slowed or limited due to addition of rip-rap to

several of the Refuge islands, as well as
lowering of the lake level during the winter months to limit damage from

ice. Natural plant and habitat succession
is an ongoing management issue on the Refuge. Mechanical and

chemical application to remove vegetation
is necessary to maintain adequate plover nesting habitat. The Refuge is
located within the Bakken Oilfield and the potential exists for water
contamination from oil extraction related activities.  As of 2014, there is not an oil well within
several miles of the Refuge. Since the Lake level is maintained by pumping
from Lake Sakakawea, there is potential for contamination from the Missouri
River system if contaminates existed within the watershed. Contamination from
surrounding agricultural related activities is also possible.  

Habitat

Audubon NWR is part of the Northwestern
Glaciated Plains ecoregion which is signified by glacial moraine and  

high concentrations of wetlands.  Much of the 14,735 acre refuge is comprised
of Lake Audubon (10,421 acres).

remaining uplands and islands are a
composition of native mixed-grass prairie, restored native prairie, and

planted non-native grasses and forbs.  Wetlands of various sizes are scattered and
prominent across the upland

landscape. The vegetation community is
dominated by prairie junegrass, little bluestem, needle and thread, blue

grama, green needlegrass, porcupine grass,
prairie cordgrass, northern reedgrass, plains muly, western wheatgrass, big
bluestem, as well as non-native Kentucky bluegrass and smooth brome. As of
2008, there were over 85 islands within the refuge boundary ranging from less
than one acre to over 80 acres in size. 

Land Use

Audubon NWR provides food, water, shelter,
and space for a variety of wildlife species. Refuge managers focus

their efforts on managing the land to meet
the needs of waterfowl and other migratory birds, threatened and

endangered species, and resident wildlife.
Upland habitats are managed using a combination of prescribed

burning, livestock grazing, mowing,
invasive species removal, and native prairie restoration. Lake levels are

controlled by the Bureau of Reclamation to
facilitate the GDIP.

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