U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Division of Refuge Planning
Mountain-Prairie Region

In-Progress Plan Status


Winter 2012

Conduct scoping and public meetings


Spring 2012

Prepare draft environmental assessment (EA) and plan


Summer 2012

Release draft EA and plan for public review


Summer 2014

Complete environmental review and final plan


Information about the planning process is in Planning Overview. Terms are in the Glossary.

Land Protection Plan

Proposed San Luis Valley Conservation Area

Colorado and New Mexico


The Service is proposing to establish the San Luis Valley Conservation Area in south-central Colorado and far northern New Mexico.

  • Comprises a project area within the San Luis Valley, which would become the fifth unit of the San Luis Valley National Wildlife Refuge Complex.
  • Potential land protection of up to 530,000 acres with conservation easements bought from willing sellers.
  • Limited fee-title acquisition of up to 30,000 acres to meet management needs of the Alamosa, Baca, and Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuges.

The proposed conservation area is defined by the headwaters of the legendary Rio Grande, which begins its nearly 1,900-mile journey to the Gulf of Mexico in the San Juan and Sangre de Cristo Mountains that surround the San Luis Valley.

Runoff from mountain snowpack creates wetlands and riparian areas in the midst of what otherwise is a high-mountain desert, providing important habitat for dozens of species of migratory birds and other sensitive or imperiled species.

The surrounding sagebrush shrublands and mountains provide homes and migration corridors for the Rio Grande cutthroat trout, Canada lynx, and important State game species such as elk and deer.

Photo of a single leafless tree in a flat grassland with snow-covered mountains and a full moon in the background.

Alpenglow on Sierra Blanca Massif, Colorado.
Copyright Joe Zinn

We are planning for this conservation area as part of developing the comprehensive conservation plan for the refuges in the San Luis Valley.

After public comment on our draft plan (under "Documents" below), we decided to separate out a portion of the proposed San Luis Valley Conservation Area that has immediate conservation need and opportunities. This is the Sangre de Cristo Conservation Area.

Conservation easement contracts would specify perpetual protection of habitat for trust species and limits on residential, industrial, or commercial development. Contracts would prohibit alteration of the natural topography, conversion of native grassland to cropland, and drainage or filling of wetlands. When appropriate, easement contracts would prevent the sale of surface water rights or change in water use that would have substantial negative effects on the wildlife value of the property.

Easement land would remain in private ownership. Therefore, property tax and invasive plant control would remain the responsibility of the landowner, who also would retain control of public access to the land. Contracts would not restrict grazing on easement land.

Public involvement

To hear from us about this planning effort, you can get on our mailing list.

You can contact us by comment form, email, postal mail, telephone, or fax (refer to "Contacts" below.

Public meetings
None at this time.


Planning team leader
Mike Dixon
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Division of Refuge Planning
134 Union Boulevard, Suite 300
Lakewood, Colorado 80228

303 / 236 8132 telephone
303 / 236 4792 fax|

Project email: slvrefugesplanning@fws.gov

Refuge complex email

Refuge complex mailing address
San Luis Valley National Wildlife Refuge Complex
9383 El Rancho Lane
Alamosa, Colorado 81101

Refuge complex street address
San Luis Valley National Wildlife Refuge Complex
8249 Emperius Road
Alamosa, Colorado

Refuge complex telephone
719 / 589 4021

Refuge complex Web sites