National Wildlife Refuge subject of 'On the Rocks'

UMW News Bureau

The Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in southwest Montana’s remote Centennial Valley was the topic of the last “On the Rocks” speaker series of the semester. The Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in southwest Montana’s remote Centennial Valley was the topic of the last “On the Rocks” speaker series of the semester. The refuge’s wildlife biologist Jeff Warren presented “Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge: Conservation in Your Backyard.” Although the refuge is the largest wetland complex in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, Warren said he thinks there are still many people in Dillon and Beaverhead County who have not visited the 65,000-acre refuge. Warren describes the refuge as an oasis in southwest Montana, referring to the refuge’s nearly 25,000 acres of water and wetlands. “It is an extremely diverse area,” Warren explained of the refuge, which ranges in elevation from 6,600 to 9,400 feet in the Centennial Mountains. “It is also fairly intact and so it provides a very important wildlife corridor.” The refuge was established in 1932 to protect the then-endangered trumpeter swan. At that time there were fewer than 70 known trumpeters in the world. The establishment of the refuge and the discovery of a remnant population in Canada helped reestablish the waterfowl species, which now numbers over 35,000 across North America. Fifty mammal species and 232 bird species can be found in the refuge. It is also one of the most diverse refuges in the lower 48 states in terms of plant life, Warren said. The Red Rock Lakes and tributaries also contain the rare adfluvial Arctic grayling fish, which is being considered for the endangered species list. Warren’s presentation focused on the diversity of habitat and wildlife in the refuge as well as public recreational opportunities. "On the Rocks" presentations are free and open to the public.