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Return to Conservation Biology Research on Birds

Svedarsky, D.W. 1992. Biological inventory of a multi-purpose flood control impoundment in northwest Minnesota and potentials for nongame and game bird management. Final report submitted to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. 115 pp.


In 1988, a multi-purpose flood control project known as the "BR-6 Impoundment" was completed in Polk County, Minnesota. The project contained upland habitats, a restored marsh, and a flood storage impoundment, designed to reduce flooding in the Burnham Creek Watershed while providing benefits for wetland and prairie wildlife. Often, multi-purpose flood control projects are proposed to provide wildlife benefits but few base-line data have been collected in the early stages of such projects to document these wildlife values and serve as a reference to evaluate further changes. Specific objectives of this study were as follows: 1) To conduct a base-line biological and water quality inventory of a multi-use impoundment in Minnesota. 2) To evaluate use of the impoundment by migratory species, particularly shorebirds and waterfowl, and to suggest means of maintaining and possibly increasing this use. 3) To develop a long-term management plan based on this study and a literature review which will enhance habitat for resident and migratory wildlife. 4) To recommend ways in which public use can be integrated into a management plan without compromising flood control and wildlife management values.

The 435-acre (175 hectare) study area was located 15 miles southeast of Crookston, MN. The study area was quite diverse in habitats represented and is strategically located along waterfowl and shorebird migration corridors. This explains a sighting of 137 bird species during 2 field seasons and the nesting of at least 60 species. Six "special concern" (Coffin and Pfannmuller, 1988) species were documented to nest on the study area: American Bittern, Greater Prairie-Chicken, Sandhill Crane, Upland Sandpiper, Wilson's Phalarope, and Sharp-tailed Sparrow. Black terns also bred on the study area and are currently being considered as a candidate for "special concern" status. Sightings were made of 2 additional "special concern" species (American White Pelican and Marbled Godwit), 1 "threatened" species (Bald Eagle) and the federally "endangered" Whooping Crane.

Additional findings and management considerations are presented in this report. To a visitor, the Burnham Creek Wildlife Management Area could seem like a wildlife bonanza, particularly in the spring and fall when thousands of migrating waterfowl and cranes are present. The area also has significant potential as wildlife production or breeding habitat as this study has documented. However, Cowardin and Goforth (1985) caution, "we also need to know if we see increased use patterns at impoundments because we are helping increase population levels or because we are simply attracting animals from other areas." A related question is how the wildlife use at this project area compares with the former wetland and prairie complex in the watershed which was destroyed and contributed to the flooding conditions which helped justify the construction of the impoundment. Except for field feeding in cropland stubble, wildlife use has become concentrated in the project area; creating a greater potential for disease outbreak and also increasing the prey base of ground nesting birds for mammalian predators. Nests which are concentrated in "habitat islands" are generally more likely to be destroyed than those more dispersed over the landscape.

A significant wildlife development such as the Burnham Creek Wildlife Management Area has to be viewed in a regional and historical perspective in order to properly assess its present values. A diverse prairie landscape has been largely converted to intensive crop production in the watershed but this project has been an important effort to regain some of the lost wildlife resource values.

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