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Gislason Lake enhancement will improve waterfowl habitat

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MARSHALL, Minn., Nov. 25, 2009 – Ducks and other wildlife will find a rejuvenated shallow lake when they visit Gislason Lake in Lincoln County next year. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service partnered with Ducks Unlimited to install a water control structure that will allow managers to improve the water quality and vegetation conditions on the lake. The project is supported by a 2009 grant to DU from the Minnesota Environment & Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources.  

 
A draw-down begins on the Gislason Lake Unit of the Northern Tallgrass Prairie National Wildlife Refuge in Lincoln County.

“The Service is extremely pleased to partner with DU on this important shallow lake enhancement project,” said Alice Hanley, refuge manager. “Having the ability to manipulate water levels in Gislason Lake will greatly enhance our ability to improve its water quality and provide optimal habitat for wetland-dependent wildlife on this large unit of our refuge.”

The 1,132-acre Gislason Lake Unit, which includes the 120-acre shallow lake and surrounding uplands, was added to the Northern Tallgrass Prairie National Wildlife Refuge in 2005. The Northern Tallgrass Prairie Refuge is a complex of small units scattered across western Minnesota and northwestern Iowa, containing remnant native prairie and wetlands that host a wide variety of migratory birds. The Gislason Lake Unit is unique because all of the uplands surrounding the lake are owned by the Service which gives managers complete control to manipulate water levels as necessary.

Long regarded as an important migration marsh in western Minnesota, Gislason Lake degraded over the years. High, stable water levels and invasive fish greatly reduced its aquatic plants and invertebrates upon which waterfowl and other migratory birds relied for food and cover. Submerged aquatic plant coverage in the lake dropped from 81 percent in 1955 to 44 percent in recent years. Temporary water level draw-downs using the new water control structure will allow Service biologists to rejuvenate the basin’s aquatic ecology and optimize conditions in the lake for wildlife as well as improve hunting opportunities. Once the lake is enhanced, it will be especially important for migrating and brood-rearing waterfowl.

“Gislason Lake is an exciting project for DU to complete through our Living Lakes Initiative since this shallow lake basin is completely contained and managed within a National Wildlife Refuge,” said Jon Schneider, manager of Minnesota conservation programs for DU. “Long-term enhancement of shallow lakes in degraded landscapes requires both active water level management and watershed restoration, and incorporation of Gislason Lake and its surrounding grasslands in this actively managed federal refuge with dedicated management staff accomplishes both endeavors.”  

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has long supported the need to improve and protect Gislason Lake due to its importance to migratory birds moving through western Minnesota. DNR also provided technical assistance to this project. This cooperative partnership work between DU, the Service and the DNR to enhance degraded shallow lakes and large wetlands such as Gislason Lake will help fulfill the shallow lake goals of both DNR’s Duck Recovery Plan and DU’s Living Lakes Initiative. These projects also address the wetland habitat objectives of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan.

Ducks Unlimited is the world’s largest non-profit organization dedicated to conserving North America’s continually disappearing waterfowl habitats. Established in 1937, Ducks Unlimited has conserved nearly 13 million acres thanks to contributions from more than a million supporters across the continent. Guided by science and dedicated to program efficiency, DU works toward the vision of wetlands sufficient to fill the skies with waterfowl today, tomorrow and forever.

Jennifer Kross Bismarck, ND     701-202-8896    jkross@ducks.org
Becky Jones Mahlum Bismarck, ND     701-355-3507     bjonesmahlum@ducks.org

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