Idaho’s National Wildlife Refuges
Idaho is a land of natural treasures and wonders encompassing a world of extraordinary forms. Words rarely articulate the degree of grandeur bestowed at each of these magnificent locations attracting people from around the globe to unveil the hidden fortunes that may be found throughout the state.
Known as the Gem State, Idaho's natural landscapes remain largely unblemished by civilization. A critical factor in preserving these delicate habitats relies heavily on the Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) established to maintain and conserve a healthy balanced set of diverse ecosystems as well as critical areas allocated for breeding grounds. Idaho is home to 31 Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) that offer many outdoor recreation opportunities varying from location to location. Each WMA boasts a distinct set of traits broadly that supports the needs of the surrounding area wildlife.
The region of Southern Idaho is home to a little over 12,000 acres of protected land WMAs. These areas provide the chance for activities that might include game hunting, fishing, birding, waterfowl hunting, trapping, nature treks, horseback riding, boating, and bicycling. Volunteers contribute largely to the success in the overall equation.
Created for all the enjoy, the public is encouraged to utilize these areas for sporting, outdoor recreation, and enjoying the surroundings. Varying locations will host events that offer educational opportunities and tours while observing birdlife. Idaho is a four-season state which requires a few of the WMAs to close during peak migration or breeding seasons to aid in successful outcomes for the wildlife.
The biologists responsible for the fish and game at the properties are responsible for maintaining a healthy balance to improve plant growth, forage, and ward off noxious weeds that can be harmful to humans and wildlife alike. The folks at Fish and Game complement these areas with wetlands while maintaining stabilized water quality, this is especially important when it comes to stocking fish at these locations.
Most of the WMAs are allocate for a combination of nongame and a unique array of plant species, animals, and critters. Some examples of these species include the red glassware and the Idaho sedge. Also part of this group is the desert valvata, Idaho dunes tiger beetle, and the Yellowstone cutthroat trout, short-eared owl, lesser scaup, and northern pintail.
Fish and Game is responsible for maintaining and stocking the wildlife management areas with notably sized trout which typically will run in the range of about 10-12 inches. Depending on the year, and available quantities, the department has been known to schedule exceptionally large distributions of stocked fish. The fish that are stocked are always rainbow trout which not only make a beautiful addition to the landscapes, fishing opportunities are made available to the public and area birdlife and wildlife who also enjoy a day by the waterside.
Most of the ponds are situated for easy access and provide and make for an excellent all-ages activity. Be sure to bring a fishing license, fishing tackle, and bait. What an excellent opportunity for beginner anglers to enjoy a new sport. Worms/marshmallows, power bait, bait rings, and all the extras in the tackle box for a fun day out. The fishing season opening dates are available in the Idaho Fishing & Season Rule Booklet.
The Southeast Region headquarters office is located in the city of Pocatello and is responsible for managing the five WMAs in this region that total a whopping 17,000 acres of land (which includes deeded properties, some leases, and other lands that is under a cooperative agreement). Focus is situated around a thriving and improved functional habitat for wildlife with adjustments to accommodate the public with minimal disruption to the land and wildlife.
Blackfoot River WMA - (Southeastern Idaho)
The Blackfoot River WMA Blackfoot River WMA is located in eastern Idaho in the high country of Caribou County. The 2,400 acre WMA may be found at the lower end of the valley adjacent to the Blackfoot River which twists and turns wrapping its way across the valley floor. This tremendously interesting habitat boasts a fine mix of Sagebrush steppe, wet meadow, lodgepole pine, and riparian zones ideal for migrating birds and wildlife. The tall grasses make for the ideal location for migrating birdlife and waterfowl to nest and raise their young while mostly hidden from predators. The larger animals such as the deer and elk find similar opportunities among the aspen tree groves. Though the primary objective of the WMA is a habitat geared for maximum growth and risk reduction to the native Yellowstone trout that may be found here. The Yellowstone trout flourish best in the cold clean waters of rivers. Which makes the Blackfoot River an ideal location for optimal conditions for the special set of needs.
The Blackfoot River begins at the confluence of Diamond and Lane’s creeks as a tributary of the Snake River and flows 135 miles across the predominantly arid desert terrains of Caribou County and Bingham Counties. 8 miles of the Blackfoot River cut through the wildlife management area, adding value and beauty to this already incredible collective collaboration.
Backcountry roads open the door to four parking opens in the WMA each with a unique experience of the area throughout the year. When visitors arrive they may also choose to head over to one of the two designated parking areas that provide access to the Blackfoot River if water access is the goal.
Designated as a habitat for Yellowstone cutthroat trout and waterfowl production, the Blackfoot River WMA is known to attract area and migrating birdlife. Birding at this location is a popular activity for many who enjoy the chance at up-close encounters or experience these wonderful creatures flying overhead. Common birdlife utilizing this area include the elegant Trumpeter Swan, Bald Eagle, and Sandhill Crane. Many other birds reported in the vicinity include the intriguing Willet, Long-Billed Curlew, Sora, Wilson's Snipe, and the Spotted Sandpiper which predominantly frequent this location in the early spring and late fall months. Additionally, other common bird's observed at the WMA include the Killdeer, Raptors, Shorebirds, upland birds, and waterfowl.
The tremendous amount of research and effort and implementation invested in the care and maintenance of the WMA's is clearly represented upon the arrival at one of these incredible locations. The WMAs are well thought out and accommodate the demands of an entire ecosystem. In addition to the tremendous amount of time invested in the land and wildlife that call this area home, the WMAs are each uniquely structured to accommodate the public in a way that does not impede or hinder the overall harmonious system. Appreciating these magnificent locations might include exploring area pathways, meandering along trails, or taking a break while resting with the addition of bench seating. Find several designated overlooks and viewing stations, boat ramps, and a plethora of additional amenities are hardly the beginning to all the amenities offered across the parks to varying degrees. If you enjoy taking photos, these locations are most definitely an excellent option for nature photography.
Georgetown Summit WMA
The Georgetown Summit WMA is located in Bear Lake County, Idaho with the nearest city being Soda Springs. The WMA sits as a narrow passageway amid the Caribou-Targhee National Forest and the Aspen Range to the northeast Bear River Valley Range to the southwest along with the Bear River and a portion of the Oregon Trail cutting across the valley.
Georgetown Summit WMA is an important migration range for waterfowl, upland game, mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk, moose, furbearer and also provides year-round habitat for many other species of amphibians, invertebrates, and reptiles. The 4,353 acres of land consist of habitats that include the rolling hills blanketed in the Sagebrush steppe, grasslands, aspens, and tall shrubs. The elevation sits around 5,800 feet at the base near the Bear River and caps at around 7,000 feet above sea level at the top of the ridges.
The Georgetown Summit WMA (GSWMA) is a collaboration of partnerships including the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the U. S. Forest Service (USFS), the Idaho Department of Lands (IDL), and private landowners. The department owns 1,763 acres of the total 4,353-acres utilized to aid in sustainable futures for area wildlife.
The land was originally sought with the objective to conserve and improve the area's big game winter range, upland game and wildlife breeding grounds, access for the public to designated hunting territory, and an appreciation for nature and the wildlife that largely depend on the land for survival.
A majority of funding for the Georgetown Summit WMA comes from the state hunting and fishing license sales in conjunction with PR-FET. The extensive management plan was developed with long-term management as the objective and the details that make up the Georgetown Summit WMA site. Plans for these areas are often reviewed every few years to accommodate for the adaptation of naturally occurring changes, additional land acquisitions, any data variances and any adjustments required for improved outcomes are a few topics considered.
Accessible by USFS Roads 129 and 097, the Georgetown Summit WMA is accessible with three parking areas located strategically throughout the area, one near Bear River.
The Montpelier WMA stretches across 2,137 of land situated at the northeast corner of the city of Montpelier and to the west of the Caribou-Targhee National Forest. Seated at 6,000 feet at the low end and 7,600 feet on the upper portions of the terrain. The Montpelier WMA incurs a moderate amount of annual snow, sometimes as high as four feet.
Additional focus on mule deer and a wintering range for elk is the primary objective at this location. Upland game and all associated wildlife being the focus thereafter the primary objective is met. Visiting the WMA guests may come across the Idaho pocket gopher, Merriam's shrew, the king eared myotis, the North American wolverine, pygmy rabbit, and the Uinta chipmunk. The WMA Ocoee wants to hear of any neat and unusual appearances of additional mammals not listed within the grounds and has a link on their website for reporting such encounters. Public hunting and wildlife appreciation are also management focus points.
Idaho is home to many naturally occurring edible and medicinal plants which as, Camas - Camassia quamash, Short style Onion - Allium brevistylum, Fireweed - Epilobium angustifolium, Wild Ginger - Asarum caudatum, Meadow Salsify - Tragopogon pratensis, Rose - Rosa woodsii, Yellow Pond Lily - Nuphar polysepalum, Cattail - Typha latifolia, Yarrow - Achillea millefolium, Evert's or Elk Thistle - Cirsium scariosum, Serviceberry - Amelanchier alnifolia, Wild Strawberry - Fragaria vesca, Field Mint - Mentha arvensis and Oregon Grape - Berberis repens. Montpelier WMA aids in the preservation of wild plant life species which provide forage and habitat for game and nongame species that migrate to this location or winter here. Plantlife includes bitterbrush, serviceberry, sagebrush, red glassware, and starveling milkvetch.
Hidden in the plants and shrubs or making way across the skies over the Montpelier WMA visitors may come across the greater sage grouse likely hiding in the Sagebrush. Perhaps searching for the Columbian sharp-tailed grouse in the winter months or even better the Sandhill Crane over in the wetland/riparian habitat. Head over to the frozen waters of Bear River and Montpelier Reservoir for the chance at observing the Transitional waterbird guild. The grand Bald Eagle, northern goshawk, peregrine falcon, flammued owl, or the great gray owl may also be found at this location.