Idaho's National Wildlife Refuges - Part 2

Portneuf WMA _ pronounced as "port-noof."

Portneuf WMA is situated within Bannock County of southeast Idaho. The land spreads across 3,950-acres with a diverse set of typography. Foothills and mountains range from 4,680 feet to 6,463 feet and are topped with a mix of soil, including loess, silty and calcareous soils, to name a few. The unit comprises a mixture of uplands, marshes, meadows, open water, agricultural lands, and Russian olive woodlands.

Positioned on the west side of the Caribou-Targhee National Forest, the higher elevations to the east are managed as part of the West Side Ranger District. The WMA borders and shares land with multiple BLM areas and neighbors Indian Rocks State Park. The temperatures for this region will typically range anywhere from -30°F to 103°F and experience annual precipitation of around 10-14 inches, with up to approximately three feet of snow in upper elevations during the winter months.

The Portneuf WMA faces a large valley home to the Portneuf River, a 124-mile-long tributary of the Snake River, and Marsh Creek, which eventually meet at the end of a lava bed that ultimately distinguishes the two until convergence. The WMA's land to the north and south is primarily designated as agriculture, livestock pastures, and residential growth. Furthermore, public access points are commonly utilized to access USFS properties.

The rolling slopes of the WMA are cloaked with mountain brush, juniper, maple, aspen, and douglas-fir, which are all equally ideal as a defense cover for the mule deer and other wildlife throughout the year. Riparian regions are drenched in colorful chokecherry, whispering willows, bright red osier dogwood, water birch, cottonwood, and delicately dotted by bitterbrush, serviceberry, snowberry, and fragrant sagebrush.

Portneuf WMA is an all-encompassing ecosystem and dwelling place for a vast collection of migratory and resident birds, mammals, as well as a region blooming with a variety of plants in return, providing shelter for invertebrates, amphibians, and reptiles. Scenic views from this location may reveal Bonneville Peak is the highest summit in the Portneuf Range in Bannock County. Bonneville Peak towers a height of 3,499 feet and is immersed in beautiful pine trees.

Winter forage for mule deer, being a primary emphasis of the WMA, is provided through various vegetation management approaches. Forage quantity and quality for mule deer and other wildlife are maintained or improved with prescribed burns, brush mowing, plantings, seedings, noxious weed control, and livestock exclusion.

Because soils and climate are essentially the core regulators that differentiate the efficacy of probable plant species diversity and profusion on a site, the habitat management program on the Portneuf WMA, will monitor values to determine the presence and carrying capacity of animal species there. Planting suitable plant species within the Portneuf WMA enhances its merit as a deer wintering range. The primary plant species planted at this location include Bitterbrush and Hobble Creek sagebrush.

Reducing unwanted and undesirable plant species is equally significant in maintaining optimal space and a preferred assortment of forage. To best complement this idea, the habitat management program for Portneuf WMA will assign various strategies to enhance favorable results such as the addition of suitable plant species; control of less desirable plant species including harmful, poisonous, or very unpleasant weeds; targeted fertilization; controlled burns; and when and if necessary, the reduction of livestock to curtail rivalry for forage. The prosperity of the unit as an entire system most often lacks the demand for intervention outside of what nature prescribes, though when necessary, die specific objectives so be carried out.

The area is widespread for big game hunting for beginners and returning hunters alike. The opportunity for upland game hunting within the WMA makes this destination quite popular. Hunters may enjoy searching for birds, including forest grouse, pheasant, sharp-tailed grouse, and wild turkey.

The WMA opens the door to enjoying nature while accomplishing a preferred activity, whether trail exploration, hiking, birding, photography, picnicking, boating, horseback riding, fishing, observing wildlife, or exploring somewhere new. There is most often something that everyone will enjoy when visiting one of the many wmas across Idaho.

The Portneuf WMA is managed along with three other WMAs by the Regional Wildlife Biologist assigned to the East Habitat District of the Southeast Region under the supervision of the Regional Habitat Manager.

Sterling WMA

Originally named after Sterling, Idaho, the Sterling WMA of Bingham County, Idaho stretches across 4,106 acres with a mix of wetlands, Russian olive woodlands, and open water. Portions of the WMA border the west side of American Falls Reservoir.

Sterling WMA leads as one of the most visited WMA locations in southeastern Idaho and is accessible by fifteen parking lots that are strategically placed for maximum outdoor enjoyment while maintaining an optimal refuge for wildlife.

Sterling WMA is mainly popular due to the ring-necked pheasant population and the opportunities for birding and hunting. The ring-necked pheasant prefers the terrain of the open country and is commonly known as a game bird in North America. Habitats meet vary from time to time in fields, marshlands, brush, or countryside. Sometimes the ring-necked pheasant will choose the open grassland, and often this terrain offers considerably less cover and access to water. Nonetheless, its varicolored and distinct calls bring to life the countryside. Wintering pheasants frequently disband into smaller groups of males and larger flocks of females.

The name "Sterling" was reportedly drawn from a hat and originated since the soil quality proved to be outstanding for producing preferred crops. The town once prospered before meeting an end and becoming a ghost town in the late 1940s. The town likely was unsuccessful due to a lack of water and rain, as well as the inability to compete with services provided within neighboring towns such as Aberdeen.

The WMA continuously identifies and implements new strategies to maximize the utilization and benefits encompassing the ecosystem. The platform for success was founded chiefly upon implementing water systems such as the Aberdeen-Springfield, as it allocated water from the Snake River to this location. There over, resulting in enhanced wetlands. Accommodating for increased growth and water demands, area wells, droughts, sprinkler irrigation, and weather, the pressures on the WMA ecosystem are distinctive to the location and constantly evolving. Adapting continuously to incalculable environmental fluctuations, the folks overseeing the WMA are committed to the successful development and wildlife population.

The addition of the Orth and Johnson segment added 50 acres of wetland to the overall development. The placement of six ponds served Placing a well on the property, in conjunction with increased water flows to the marsh, aided to maximize the overall efficiency across the territory while attracting the use of the grounds for other wildlife and visiting species.

Additional modifications and improvements include removing visual disturbances, including fencing, signage, and barriers. The embellishment of a viewing blind was also added and acts as a favorable improvement among birders, nature viewers, and hunters alike.

The terrain is low-rolling and delightfully decorated with native and exotic trees, shrubs, forbs, and grasses. The uplands boast Wyoming's big sagebrush with diverse grass species, including cheatgrass, while the marshes display the taller.

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