Important Bird Areas

Fort Randall Dam Complex

South Dakota

This IBA centers around Fort Randall dam on the Missouri River and associated uplands in southern South Dakota. Besides the river, the IBA includes adjacent terrestrial recreation and wildlife areas including White Swan and Pickstown Game Production Areas and State Wildlife Refuges, North Point and Randall Creek Recreation Areas, and Karl Mundt National Wildlife Refuge. The dam, tailrace, and upstream reservoir create habitat for large numbers of migrating and wintering  waterfowl and Bald Eagles. The surrounding woodlands and grasslands, both upland and floodplain, host  a diverse community of migrating landbirds.

Ornithological Summary

This site has an excellent mix of habitats suitable for birds. The grassland and and woodland habitats along the Missouri River are suitable for migrant and breeding songbirds and raptors. The portions of the Missouri River above and below Fort Randall Dam support water-based species. This site, especially the Karl Mundt NWR, is an important site for wintering and nesting Bald Eagles.

Conservation Issues

Although nothing immediately threatens the birds in this IBA, some low-level threats need to be monitored so that they do not become critical. Boats do disturb waterbirds and eagles but the area is large enough that the birds can move elsewhere. There are a large number of powerlines in the area because of the dam – it is unknown whether this is a mortality factor for flying birds. In the floodplains, large cottonwoods and other old trees are dying off and not being replaced by young trees because of lack of flooding. In addition, red cedar/junipers are taking over some areas because of lack of fire. Water levels below the dam flucuate radically daily, seasonally and annually because water levels are manipulated to serve downstream interests. This can impact prey availability for waterbirds and eagles and can affect the existence or isolation of sandbars upon which many birds roost.

Ownership

White Swan GPA and Pickstown GPA are owned by the state of South Dakota. The rest is federally owned: North Point Recreation Area by Bureau of Reclamation (managed by the state), Randall Creek Recreation Area and the river channel by Army Corps of Engineers and Karl Mundt NWR by US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Habitat

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<strong>White Swan GPA and North Point RA. </strong>&nbsp;This is
an area of rolling hills interrupted by drainage valleys that lead to the
Missouri River (Lake Francis Case) from the north.&nbsp; Supported vegetation is a mosaic of mostly
linear woodlands and patches of exotic grassland, except that White Swan is
mostly grassland.&nbsp; Most of the woodlands
are planted shelterbelts, dominated by Siberian elm (Ulmus pumila) and
American elm (Ulmus americana).&nbsp;
There also are significant patches of eastern red cedar (Juniperus
virginana).&nbsp; The grassy areas consist
mostly of smooth brome (Bromus inermis). <strong>Pickstown GPA.&nbsp; </strong>This is an
area of rolling hills interrupted by drainage valleys that lead to the dam
tailrace. The valleys are largely wooded, supporting such species as hackberry
(Celtis occidentalis), American elm, green ash (Fraxinus
pennsylvatica), bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa) and cottonwood (Populus
deltoides).&nbsp; The upper slopes and
hilltops are covered by native tallgrass prairie [especially big bluestem (Andropogon
gerardi)}, smooth brome, smooth sumac (Rhus glabra), and eastern red
cedar.&nbsp; The floodplain portion of the
area is dominated by cottonwood, eastern red cedar and smooth brome. <strong>Randall Creek RA and Karl Mundt NWR. </strong>The
RA is a mostly mowed area with scattered, mature individuals of hackberry,
green ash, Siberian elm, honey locust (Gleditsia triacanthos, and
cottonwood. There are a few unmowed areas that consist mostly of smooth brome.
The NWR is a floodplain forest that includes a large number of very large
cottonwoods.

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Land Use

The dam exists to regulate water flow for flood control and downstream water uses such as navigation. There are several boat launches and fishing is very popular in the area. Much of the surrounding land is for recreation (hunting, camping, hiking), wildlife management, and historic preservation. An old church and cemetary are maintained for public viewing. The Karl Mundt NWR is off-limits to the public because of breeding and wintering eagles.