Alamosa/Monte Vista/Baca National Wildlife Refuge Complex
Mountain-Prairie Region
BACA National Wildlife Refuge
Baca Ranch with the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the background

Baca Ranch with Sangre de Cristo Mountains in background

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to Host Management Perspective Tours on the Baca Refuge

Prescribed Burns Planned at Baca National Wildlife Refuge May 1 - June 30, 2011

On November 22, 2000, Congress authorized the establishment of the Baca National Wildlife Refuge. Situated in the San Luis Valley, a high mountain desert surrounded by two 14,000-foot mountain ranges, the Refuge contains a diverse suite of habitats including desert shrublands, grasslands, wet meadows, playa wetlands, and riparian areas. Fed primarily by melting mountain snow, numerous streams flow across the Refuge providing an abundance of life in an otherwise arid landscape. The Refuge is home to a large number of wildlife and plant species. In addition to the plant and animal resources contained on the refuge, the area also is rich in historic and cultural resource sites, some of which date over 12,000 years ago.

The Refuge abuts lands owned or controlled by other conservation entities including The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the National Park Service (NPS), and the Colorado State Land Board. This complex of lands, totaling more than 500,000 acres, contains one of the largest and most diverse assemblages of wetland habitats remaining in Colorado.

The Baca National Wildlife Refuge is currently closed to public access.

Conceptual Management Plan (2.5 MB PDF)

Mineral Interest:

Lexam Explorations (U.S.A.) Inc. has provided documentation to USFWS showing that it is an owner of mineral rights below portions of the surface estate on the Refuge, and therefore is entitled to make use of the surface for exploration. Lexam acquired their mineral interest prior to acquisition of the surface estate in the Baca Ranch by the USFWS.   With respect to State of Colorado law on subsurface mineral rights in Colorado, the subsurface mineral property owner has rights to pursue recovery of its minerals.

Recent Actions:

Lexam Explorations (U.S.A) Inc., an owner of a mineral interest below portions of the surface estate of the Baca National Wildlife Refuge, has proposed drilling two wells  to explore for oil and gas beneath the surface estate of the Refuge.

April 1, 2011: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has issued a Finding of No Significant Impact for a proposal by Lexam.  A Finding of No Significant Impact is issued when the environmental analysis and interagency review find a project proposal to have no significant impacts on the quality of the environment.  This finding is supported by the final environmental assessment which describes the project proposed by Lexam to conduct initial exploration of mineral interests under the Refuge and analyzes alternatives that seek to protect Refuge resources while honoring a mineral owner's legally vested right to access and explore.

The environmental assessment evaluated the stipulations of the preferred alternative designed to protect the surface estate and other resources of the Refuge from unreasonable damage during all phases of the oil and gas exploration.  This finding is limited to the two exploratory wells as stated in the proposal.  Any additional exploration wells or activities supporting the production of natural gas or oil on the Refuge will be analyzed through an additional and separate National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process. NEPA is a United States environmental law that requires all Federal governmental agencies to consider the environmental impacts of any proposed federal actions and reasonable alternatives to those actions. The Service released a draft environmental assessment in January 2011 for public review and comments were solicited.  The Service has considered all comments received in its final environmental assessment. 

The preferred alternative outlines 43 terms and conditions to be imposed upon Lexam by the Service in addition to those required by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and Saguache County which ensure the exploration program will not have a significant impact on the natural and human environment.  Of particular interest are those measures intended to minimize disturbance to wildlife by restricting the seasons of exploration activity to reduce or eliminate interference with migratory bird breeding and big game calving; minimize the risk of ground and surface water contamination; minimize or eliminate impacts to wetland habitat, sensitive fish populations and plant types; reduce probability of noxious weed infestations; manage fugitive dust; and reduce air, noise and light pollution from exploration activities.  Appendix D of the final environmental assessment contains a full description of the protective measures required by the Service.

For more information:

News Release: April 1, 2011: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Proposes Protection Measures for Exploratory Oil and Gas Wells on the Baca National Wildlife Refuge in Southern Colorado

Entire FONSI & Environmental Assessment - April 2011 (45 MB PDF)

Or View individual Chapters of the April 2011 Environmental Assessment

Proposed Location Map
Proposed Wells
Protective Measures
Technical Report: Environmental Assessment Supplement (prepared by PBS&J 7.8 MB PDF)
Technical Report: Acoustical Environment Assessment (prepared by PBS&J PDF)

2011 Draft Environmental Assessment (16 MB PDF)
2008 Draft Environmental Assessment (7.3 MB PDF)
2008 Final EA Document Dated October 2008 (7.7 MB)
Final EA Appendices
Gunnison Prairie Dog FONSI

Last updated: October 5, 2012