Stillwater NWR Complex: 2023 Year in Review
By: Carl Lunderstadt, Refuge Manager

I’ve been racking my brain trying to decide what to call 2023, and I think I have to settle on “The Year of the Move”. For a couple of reasons… One, it took us from January thru April to move our office from 1020 New River Parkway in Fallon out to 3175 Freeman Lane in Stillwater. Two, it seems like it has taken all year to get unpacked and settled into the new office. Three, we’ve done an awful lot of work to transform a house into an office, and it seems we’ve only just scratched the surface. And fourth, and maybe most important, with the new office within the boundary of Stillwater NWR and owned by the Fish and Wildlife Service, it is likely to be the last move!

Another big thing in 2023 was the huge snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountains that led to record runoff in the Carson Basin, and huge amounts of water flowing out to the refuge. We started receiving water from emergency releases in March and it seemed like we were in emergency management mode most of the summer. Normal water deliveries continued into November, with water also coming from Carson Lake thru the “Big Dig” all year long. All of our wetland units were flooded, and the water in the Big Water unit was flowing all the way around to the Fallon NWR. Fortunately, we did not suffer any damage to our infrastructure. Water crept up onto Navy Cabin Road, but all that required was a temporary closure.

Speaking of roads, most of our maintenance projects were on roads since the rest of the refuge was under water. In addition to the normal grading and mowing, the biggest project was adding gravel to Navy Cabin Road, but also some to North Road heading out to Millen’s Landing. We also cleaned out numerous boat launches to facilitate launching, which was probably not an issue this year as high as the water levels were!

There was also a little bit of personnel movement at Stillwater in 2023. Our new Fish and Wildlife Officer Adrian Hunter started in January. We shared him with BOR so he was busy all around the valley. Next, our Wildlife Refuge Specialist, aka Jack of all Trades, Jonathan Garrison left in April to be the Refuge Manager at the San Luis NWR in California. A common saying around the office to this day is…” oh yeah, Jonathan used to do that”. We miss him every day but have not been able to fill his position due to budget constraints. Rusty White, our seasonal Maintenance Worker, came on in April to help out with maintenance projects, but also to help with waterfowl banding. We made several offers to waterfowl banding technicians, but all were turned down, so Rusty graciously agreed to help! And it’s not really summer around here until YCC starts. We had four high school students led by Keith Sluyter doing mostly maintenance projects all over the refuge from June to August. And last, but certainly not least, we were fortunate to add Taryn Cole to our staff as Administrative Officer in August. She covers both Stillwater and Ruby Lake NWR’s and has picked up on the job very quickly and jumped in with both feet!

In other news, Norm flew waterfowl surveys for another year, a bunch of volunteers helped us complete shorebird surveys in the spring and fall, and we cooperated with NDOW to band waterfowl. The refuge partnered with researchers from the University of Nevada Reno to conduct population surveys for pollinators in the Lahontan Valley. Refuge staff assisted with White-faced Ibis banding and satellite tagging that will help researchers better understand how they move across the interconnected wetland systems within the Great Basin. The Lahontan Valley is also a focus of a new Saline Lakes monitoring program that is headed up by our friends at the USGS. The goals of this program will be to monitor and assess the ecosystem health across the Great Basin. USGS researchers will be looking at broad indicators of wetland productivity such as invertebrate populations and water quality. This data will provide a valuable snapshot of wetland health on a landscape level!

Thanks to Lahontan Audubon, Friends of Stillwater, and a gaggle of current and retired refuge staff who helped pull off another Spring Wings birding festival. It seems like a million other things happened, but I don’t want to bore you with property inventories, safety reviews, or many other seemingly trivial things we have to do. I would also be remiss if I did not thank NWA and their members for their support in conserving wetlands for waterfowl and shorebirds. Thank You! We greatly appreciate your help.


This year is the 35th Anniversary of the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network site designation for the Lahontan Valley Wetlands. A small group from Audubon, NDOW, Manomet, Stillwater Refuge, and others met recently to celebrate the occasion.

RECIPE CARD-Goose Wontons
Submitted by: Nevada Foodies

Goose Wontons are big flavor in a tiny package and the perfect way to enjoy dinner after a hard day of hunting.

Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4


Wonton Filling

2 specklebelly goose breasts, cut into small cubes
1/4 cup sweet red bell pepper, finely chopped
1/4 cup green onions, finely chopped
4 oz water chestnuts, sliced
1/2 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
1 tbsp soy sauce, low sodium
1 tbsp Hoisin sauce
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1/2 tsp kosher salt

Wonton Wrapper

12 oz wonton wrappers, 25-30


1. Add all of the wonton filling ingredients to a food processor and pulse to blend into a minced meat texture.
2. Place 1 teaspoon of the wonton filing into the center of the wonton wrapper. Moisten the edges of the wrapper with water and seal forming a triangle. Bring the two side points up and over the filling and pinch the ends. Repeat until done.
3. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a low boil on the stove. Working in batches, gently drop about 10 goose wontons into the water so not to overcrowd. Cook the first batch for 2-3 minutes or until the wontons float to the top.
4. Remove the wontons with slotted spoon, drain and set aside. Repeat until all the wontons are cooked.
5. Serve the goose wontons with steamed rice and garnish with green scallions and chili oil.


Waterfowl wontons can be made with other goose breast meat or with other duck breast meat. The sizes of the breast meat will vary.
You can process all wonton filling ingredients and refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight to marinate before making the wontons. This step enhances the overall aromatics and flavor of the wonton filling.