Celebrating 30 Years of the Four-Square-Mile Survey

Every year since 1987, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) personnel across the U.S. Prairie Pothole Region have visited approximately 6,000 wetlands to count waterfowl as part of the Four-Square-Mile Breeding Waterfowl Survey. Since the early days of the USFWS, it has been widely recognized that this region is extremely important in sustaining duck populations. Today, it is home to over six million pairs of breeding waterfowl annually. In the late 1980s, with the support and encouragement of the public, the Directorate of the Service saw the need to develop a landscape-scale survey to understand the value of ongoing conservation actions to breeding waterfowl. Subsequently, Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center designed the Four-Square-Mile Breeding Waterfowl Survey to quantify the contribution of USFWS fee title and easement ownership to waterfowl populations.

Coupled with remote sensing data from 704 plots, ground counts provide the necessary input data to generate accurate estimates of the number of breeding pairs of 13 species of waterfowl across 28 wetland management districts in five states. In additio