Beginning in about 2005, DU has collaborated with Modoc National Wildlife Refuge (Refuge) staff on California Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) Duck Stamp proposals. Funds secured by DU through these proposal efforts have been improving habitat conditions on the Refuge’s public hunting lands ever since. The Refuge has very capable heavy equipment operators but often lacks adequate funding to accomplish all the habitat improvement work they would like to do. Duck Stamp proposals are a source of additional funds for such work, and DU has assisted the Refuge with scoping projects, developing budgets, and assisting with proposal writing to help secure these funds.
The North Woods Field project is located on about 60 acres of the floodplain of the South Fork Pit River, within the public hunting area of Modoc NWR, and was historically part of a large wetland complex influenced by flows from both the South Fork Pit River and Pine Creek. Altered stream flows, levee and flood control projects, channel incision, invasive weed species, and other factors have reduced habitat quality on these floodplain wetlands, greatly diminishing their productivity for migratory waterfowl. Before the project, there was no open water and very little nesting or resting bird use in this area. Several areas were too wet to control weeds yet too dry to create good waterfowl habitat.
The goals of the project were to create a series of small wetland depressions throughout the 60 acres to provide open water areas for waterfowl and other waterbirds, allow for better control of invasive species such as canary grass, and enhance establishment of preferred marsh vegetation. The project would also enhance waterfowl hunting opportunities significantly by providing flooded shallow open water wetlands where none existed.
In spring 2013, DU engineers and surveyors conducted a topographic survey of the project area and worked with the Refuge on the project design. With those tasks completed by early summer, DU turned the design over to the Refuge which conducted the earthwork to create a series of potholes of the floodplain; the Refuge also replaced a non-functional screwgate. With these improvements made, the Refuge was able to flood the ground in late summer 2013 in advance of the waterfowl season. After watching the project function during the fall and winter, the Refuge conducted a few minor touch-up on the excavation work during summer 2014 and is seeding the disturbed ground with a seed mix to promote development of nesting cover and to deter weed establishment.