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Working With Landowners to Protect a Refuge


Grays Lake National Wildlife Refuge. Photo credit: USFWS

Grays Lake National Wildlife Refuge overlays a 22,000 acre shallow marsh, full to busting with bulrush, cattails, and birds. Looming in the distance are the blue-grey Caribou Mountains, rounded at the tops and often dusted with snow even into the early summer.

After decades of dispute over who owns the lakebed at Grays Lake, the United States has now closed on the first acquisition of lakebed property. Working with landowners, the State of Idaho, the Shoshone-Bannock, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Department of the Interior and the Department of Justice has resulted in a concrete resolution to a complex real estate situation.    

The agencies will continue to work with land owners who wish to sell their property along the lakebed. Already, BIA has accepted offers for an additional 2,200-acres.  


White-faced ibis take flight on the refuge. Photo credit: robinsegg, Flickr

Home of the Grays Lake National Wildlife Refuge, this high elevation habitat is a healthy mix of marsh, open water, wet meadow and grasslands. This rich habitat is home to the world’s largest nesting population of Sandhill cranes and many other migratory birds – in addition to large mammals like moose and elk.


Land owner Demont Crystal talks with Pamela Benn while he overlooks the property he sold that will benefit the refuge’s wildlife. Photo credit: USFWS

In addition to benefiting wildlife, Grays Lake also stores and supplements water for the Fort Hall Irrigation Project. The marshy Grays Lake has been used as water storage for the project since the 1900s.


A Sandhill crane guards its clutch of eggs along the marsh. Photo credit: robinsegg, Flickr

“This is the first step in settling a long standing dispute and moving the refuge forward,” said Southeast Idaho National Wildlife Refuge Complex Project LeaderTracy Cassleman. “This is monumental.”

Learn more about Grays Lake NWR

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