The
greater Kellys Slough Complex includes Kellys Slough NWR (1,270 acres) and eleven Waterfowl
Production Areas (5,592 acres) that serve as a refuge and nesting area for birds. The refuge is located about 8 miles west and 3 miles north of the City of Grand Forks. Grasslands located within the Complex are a mosaic of native prairie, planted natives, and exotic grasses. 

Kellys Slough arises near the town of Emerado to the southwest and runs northeastward to its confluence with the Turtle River. A part of the mission of the Refuge is to temporarily store water during floods. Apart
from the main stem of the Slough, there are additional permanent water areas.
These include two wetlands along County Road 11, a little more than a mile
north of the main Slough, and adjacent to the Turtle River on the north. Lake
Lunby is a permanent, cattail-bordered marsh located 4 miles north of the kiosk and parking lot of the main pool. A mile farther north of Lake Lunby is a saline, semipermanent
wetland that at times attracts large numbers of Tundra Swans, shorebirds, and
waterfowl that prefer shallow wetlands.


Ornithological Summary

Kellys Slough is a unique feature that lies
with the intensively-cropped Red River Valley, which is the lakebed of Glacial
Lake Agassiz. It provides a valuable stopover and staging area for migrants in
an area where there are few options for birds with affinities for water.
Although American White Pelicans do not breed there, their numbers are often in
the 500-1000 range in late summer and early fall. Similarly, a few thousand
Tundra Swans are present at times during spring migration. The area is very significant as a stopover for migrant shorebirds and waterfowl. The grasslands provide habitat for several grassland Species of Conservation Concern.

Annual brood surveys conducted by USFWS from 2007-2013 showed the number of waterfowl broods as ranging from 43 to 194 annually with the number of ducklings ranging from 363 to 1204.

 
This site has previously been designated as a Global IBA and in 2003 was designated as a Western Hemispheric Shorebird Reserve Network site based on an average of 30,000 shorebirds using the site annually..

Conservation Issues

Major
threats to the Complex as defined here stem from insufficient resources to manage the land through fire, grazing, and control of invasive species. Increased use of controlled burns and rotational grazing would increase species diversity of birds. Shorebird use of various pools is critically dependent on active management of water levels.

Management practices on surrounding and intermingled private lands affect the Complex. Changes in land use are associated with intensification of agricultural practices and establishment of home sites. Currently, many tracts of private that used to be too wet to farm are being field tiled. This is resulting in land coming out of the Conservation Reserve Program, and conversion of grasslands to cropland. Waters from tiled fields will carry increased amounts of pollutants including fertilizers and pesticides. Industrialization on adjacent private lands is a continual threat. Possibilities include new cell towers, powerlines, pipelines, and inert landfills.

The watershed of Kellys Slough is potentially affected by the town of Emerado and the Grand Forks Air Force Base.

Ownership

Kellys
Slough NWR and associated Waterfowl Production Areas are owned and managed by
United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Pool 2, where much of the shorebird
data was obtained, is a Wildlife Management Area owned by North Dakota Game and
Fish. Lands intermingled with and surrounding these public lands are privately
owned.

Habitat

The area includes permanent water, ephemeral
wetlands and mudflats, lowland and upland grasslands, and cropland. The depth and extent of water
is actively managed in several pools. Grasses include brome, Kentucky
bluegrass, wheatgrass, little bluestem, Indian grass, alkali grass, cord grass.
Russian olive is controlled on the public parcels, but has extensively invaded
some of the adjoining private lands. Trees include cottonwood and green ash. Cattail is
dominant in the shallow wetlands.There are springs within the floor of Kellys Slough that flow year-round and provide pockets of open water in winter.Mekinock WPA is especially notable for the native tall grasses found there.There is a woodland of several acres composed primarily of oak and ash within the NWR proper. There is also deciduous woodland along the Turtle River with some of the WPAs.

Land Use

The major purpose of all of the Complex is to provide habitat for nesting and migrant waterfowl and shorebirds. This is consistent with providing habitat for other grassland species. Portions of the Complex designated as National Wildlife Refuge are closed to hunting and thus serve as a refuge for migrant waterfowl. Waterfowl Production Areas outside the NWR boundaries are open to hunting and other recreational activities. Some of
the upland areas are temporarily being cropped in preparation for planting to native grasses. planted in corn, soybeans, sunflowers, or small grainsand some is
pastured.

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