What We Do
Using Water, Grazing, Haying, and Prescribed Fire to Benefit Wildlife
Baca National Wildlife Refuge restores, enhances, and maintains wetland, upland,, and other habitats for wildlife plants and fish species that are native to the San Luis Valley. The Refuge conserves and enhances the mixtures of wetland and desert habitats found in the area to accomplish these goals. Habitat management tools used on the Refuge include water and wetland management, weed control, haying, grazing, and prescribed fire.
Each season, the Refuge staff evaluates habitat conditions and determines which management technique would be best to use. Having a variety of tools to choose from helps Refuge staff to maintain these habitats in the best condition possible. Historically, most of the Refuge was part of the Baca Cattle & Land Company which was continuously operational for well over a century before being acquired by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Many of the traditional ranching techniques such as irrigation, haying, and cattle grazing are still used today to maintain the Refuge habitats.
The Refuge relies solely on irrigation water from six creeks, that come off of the Sangre De Cristo mountains, to maintain the wet meadow and playa habitats. Spring run-off water is diverted out of the creeks, through a series of structures and ditches, which spreads the water over the wet meadow and playa habitats. This seasonal irrigation system is a vital component to the success of the habitat. Depending on snow pack and spring time temperatures, irrigation water usually occurs during a very narrow window. Sometimes its feast or famine, and Refuge staff must stay ready for when it arrives.
Grazing & Haying
Grazing and haying is used to remove decadent vegetation from previous years growth. This allows for healthy growth of the new season vegetation. Grazing, primarily sheep, will also be used for invasive weed management. Large herds of sheep, called bands, will feed almost exclusively on the new broadleaf weeds versus the native grasses and sedges. Once the weeds have been grazed, the bands will be moved to the next patch of invasive weeds. Grazing is also used periodically in upland habitats to maintain grass health and vigor.
Prescribed fire is used, as is grazing and haying, to remove old vegetation, promote new growth, and alter various habitat types to benefit wildlife.
Management and Conservation
Refuges deploy a host of scientifically sound management tools to address biological challenges. These tools span active water management to wilderness character monitoring, all aimed at ensuring a balanced conservation approach to benefit both wildlife and people.
Baca National Wildlife Refuge provides food, cover, and breeding habitat for migratory birds and resident wildlife. The Refuge conserves and enhances a mixture of wetlands, meadows, playas, and upland habitats found in the area to accomplish these goals. Habitat management tools used on the Refuge include water and wetland management, weed control, haying, grazing, and prescribed fire.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service law enforcement officers have a wide variety of duties and responsibilities. Officers help visitors understand and obey wildlife protection laws. They work closely with state and local government offices to enforce federal, state and refuge hunting regulations that protect migratory birds and other game species from illegal take and preserve legitimate hunting opportunities.
Laws and Regulations
The Baca Refuge has limited public access and uses. Please refer to the Baca Refuge Hunt Brochure for more information on public hunting activities.