The timing of these drawdowns can create different plant responses; earlier drawdowns can trigger the germination of more flowering plants, while later drawdowns can trigger the germination of more wetland grasses that also produce a high volume of beneficial seeds.
The “right” timing can vary across regions of the state, the manager’s plant preferences, and even with the current year’s weather conditions.
For Banta, the ability to control the timing and duration of the water drawdowns is key to the potential success of most wetland units.
“Natural drawdowns are a viable option; it’s a slow process which allows for a longer period of moist soil conditions that are often ripe for germination, but you are left completely at the mercy of Mother Nature. A heavy early summer rain, for example, could stunt or kill a stand of great wetland plants you’ve worked hard to establish, if the water isn’t diverted off of the unit in short time.
“But investing in at least one water control structure can give wetland managers the upper hand by not only allowing them to control the timing and duration of drawdowns, but also maintaining the unit’s progress for the upcoming duck season.
“Controlling the timing and duration of the water drawdown can open so many doors for a wetland manager. From my perspective, a manager who can time and control drawdowns is 100 steps ahead of a manager who can’t.”
Beyond recognizing when to add and remove water to trigger desired plant responses that produce duck food for the upcoming hunting season, Banta is also thinking about and managing a layer deeper: the wetland unit’s seed bank.
“Each wetland unit comes with its own set of challenges. Here at Love Valley, we can make strides toward a desirable wetland plant community, but the units are ultimately at the mercy of the Red River.”
Much of Love Valley WMA, including the Stevens Spring Wetland Development Unit, is within a quarter-mile of the Red River. Heavy rainfall can occasionally cause the river to rise and get out of its banks and into the wetland units — sometimes for prolonged periods.