Resource Management

Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge provides food, cover, and breeding habitat for migratory birds and resident wildlife. A variety of habitat management techniques such as water control, haying, grazing, prescribed fire, and others are used to benefit wildlife. 



Water is the lifeblood of the San Luis Valley. While only 7 inches of precipitation falls annually in the Valley, spring snow melt from the Sangre de Cristo Range and San Juan Mountains supply most of the water to the Valley. The water feeds the Rio Grande, agricultural ditches, and natural areas in the Valley. This inflow of water creates a unique mosaic of wetland and desert habitats, each with its own plant and animal community.

Because of the importance of water to this region, it is intensively managed on Monte Vista Refuge. Numerous dikes and other water control structures send water to a patchwork of diverse wetland habitats ranging from shallow wet meadows to open water. Levels in the ponds and wetlands change to provide birds with adequate aquatic vegetation and invertebrates for food and escape cover. 


Grazing, Haying, and Prescribed Fire

We manage habitat for a variety of plant species that meet the needs of a multitude of wildlife species, especially for nesting and migrating birds. Grazing livestock, haying grasses, and using prescribed fire are additional tools that we use to provide the diversity of plants wildlife depend on throughout the year. Some bird species will not use tall vegetation and some will only use short vegetation to nest, forage, and hide within. Through the careful use of these tools we can provide what they need to survive.


Invasive Weeds 


Invasive weeds are a threat to the entire San Luis Valley. The Refuge staff uses a combination of application of herbicides, water management, grazing, and other combinations of management treatments to stem the spread invasive weeds. Tall whitetop is one of the most problematic. It thrives in saline moist soils, but is incredibly adaptable, infesting a wide variety of wetlands and upland sites, frequently out competing native vegetation favored by wildlife. Whitetop appears to flourish in areas that don’t have regular removal of vegetation. By letting areas go fallow to benefit ground-nesting birds in the short term, whitetop may gain a foothold and negatively impact these habitats.