Introduction and General Description
The San Luis Valley in
south-central Colorado is a critical area for wetland restoration and migratory water
birds. The valley is in an ancient lake bed approximately 100 miles long and 50 miles
wide. Numerous large wetland complexes occur throughout the valley, supporting large
concentrations of resident and migratory water birds. The Rio Grande River flows through
the valley, and numerous small streams from surrounding mountains feed an immense aquifer.
Agriculture, greasewood flats (Sarcobates spp.), wetlands, and riparian
communities dominate the landscape. The Alamosa/Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge
complex is the key wetland component within the valley. The Nature Conservancy, Colorado
Division of Wildlife, and Ducks Unlimited also have large wetland protection efforts
ongoing with the valley and the Partners program interfaces and supports those efforts.
The Colorado Partners for Fish and
Wildlife Program began in the San Luis Valley in 1989. The Program was first designed to
help alleviate avian cholera problems at the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge.
By creating waterfowl wintering sites away from the refuge, the refuge was able to manage
for reduced waterfowl concentrations and significantly reduce cholera mortalities. Since
then, wetland restoration for nesting and migrating water birds has been the primary
focus, and over 10,000 wetland acres have been restored. An additional 8,000 acres of
upland habitat have been managed through agreements.
|Habitats of Special Concern
The Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program has
been focusing on wet meadow and riparian restorations. Wetland projects are designed to
provide wet meadow habitat for foraging and nesting water birds. These projects are often
associated with resting of upland grasslands for nesting cover. Riparian habitat projects
focus on restoration of native vegetation through fencing, re-vegetation, and grazing
management. Riparian projects will benefit the endangered Southwestern willow flycatcher
as well as many other riparian-dependent species.
Threats and Conservation Strategies
Development of resources including
water, real estate, and agriculture are the primary threats to fish and wildlife resources
in the San Luis Valley.
The Partners for Fish and Wildlife
Program, in conjunction with our partners (Colorado Division of Wildlife, Ducks Unlimited,
The Nature Conservancy, and private landowners), has embarked
on an ambitious conservation effort in the San Luis Valley. Fee title purchase, easements,
and restoration of public and private lands are the principle strategies. The Partners
Program provides the private lands habitat restoration component of this approach. Contour
terraces with water
and grazing management, and revegetation of native plant
communities are the primary techniques Partners projects have used. The costs to
restore wet meadow habitat range from $50-$200/acre.
Shallow Water Wetlands Shorebird Projects
|Project site before
|Premium avocet nesting
cover created by flooding the low spots with 2 inches of water while leaving the higher
Partners for Fish and Wildlife efforts
in the San Luis Valley are possible because of dedicated landowners, the Colorado Division
of Wildlife, Great Outdoors Colorado, Ducks Unlimited, North American Wetland Conservation
Fund, The Nature Conservancy, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and local water
management and irrigation districts.
Since inception of the Partners Program
in the valley in 1989, 10,088 wetland acres, 8,999 acres of upland habitat, and 15 miles
or riparian habitat have been restored and managed through 188 agreements.
Bison grazing project.
An example of a good marsh project--limited pen water, good
interspersion of emergents, and excellent habitat for broods and aquatic insects.
In the San Luis Valley, restoration of
additional shallow water wetlands for nesting and foraging is expected to remain a major
focus. About 30,000 acres of wetlands could be restored in this Focus Area.
Riparian restoration projects need to
increase in number and magnitude. In addition to assisting recovery of the Southwestern
willow flycatcher, many other wildlife species will benefit. Over 150 miles of riparian
habitat could be restored.
For more information,
Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge
9383 El Rancho Lane
Alamosa, CO 81101
(719) 589-4021 X 1010