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.
Sheep Grazing Opportunity on the San Luis Valley NWR Complex 2023
San Luis Valley National Wildlife Refuge Complex
Cooperative Agriculture Program
Sheep Grazing Permit (2023-2027)
Attention Agricultural Operators:
Starting February 1st, 2023, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (Service) will be seeking to permit selected agricultural operator(s) for a Cooperative Agricultural Program at the San Luis Valley National Wildlife Refuge Complex (Refuge Complex). The refuge complex consists of the Alamosa, Monte Vista, and Baca National Wildlife Refuges in southcentral Colorado. Under this permit agreement, selected operator(s) will fulfill prescriptions for specific intensities of sheep grazing for a period of up to 5 years (2023-2027). The acres available for grazing will vary annually based on habitat and environmental conditions, however about 5500 acres on Alamosa Refuge, about 9000 acres on Monte Vista Refuge, and about 15,000 aces on Baca Refuge are considered for these offerings, each year for a period of up to 5 years (2023-2027).
The Service’s Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) for the Refuge Complex provides resource management objectives for each refuge. It outlines that the refuges provide resting, feeding, and breeding habitats for native fish, wildlife, and migratory bird species. Additionally, it identifies the permitting of prescribed grazing as a management tool as an appropriate, compatible, and necessary use to meet the CCP objectives. So, through the Cooperative Agricultural Program, both the selected applicants and the Service complete and sign both a Special Use Permit and a Cooperative Agricultural Agreement to permit grazing on refuge lands accordingly.
Proposed Cooperative Agriculture Agreement
Interested applicants should read all requirements and flexibilities outlined in this package and complete the application as thoroughly as possible. Selected sheep operators will work under a Cooperative Agriculture Agreement (CAA) as a “Cooperator” with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (Service). Under this agreement, selected Cooperators will fulfill prescriptions for specific intensities of sheep grazing on the Refuge Complex for a period of up to 5 years (2023-2027).
Bids will be accepted based on cattle equivalent of Animal Unit Month (AUM) of which, a Mature Sheep/Goat is 0.2 AUM and an Ewe-lamb/nanny-kid pair is 0.3 AUM. The minimum bid accepted is $19.50/AUM. This grazing fee is based on average grazing fee rates published by USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) for Colorado for 2022. Grazing fees in years 2023-2027 will be adjusted accordingly based on NASS published average rates.
There will be three (3) Bid Packages available for bidding. Operators can submit applications for one, two, or for all three bid packages. If applying for more than one bid package, operators must be able to fulfill all required stocking rates for each refuge separately. See links below for application and bid forms.
*** Potential bidders must attend a pre-bid onsite briefing and formal inspection tour to have their bids considered. (Dates and time are listed in bid packets).
Bid Package # 1 - Alamosa Refuge, Alamosa County, Colorado
Bid Package # 2 - Monte Vista Refuge, Rio Grande County, Colorado
Bid Package # 3 - Baca Refuge, Saguache County, Colorado
Cooperator(s) will be selected through an open, transparent, and competitive process where applicants will be scored and ranked based on a combination of a competitive bids, reference checks, flexibilities, ability to provide in-kind services, and relevant experience.
Applications must be received by 4:30 p.m. on Friday, February 24, 2023. (Postmarked by Friday, February 24, 2023, if mailed)
Hand delivers or Mail to:
SLVNWRC – Dean Lee
Attn: 2023-2027 Sheep Grazing
9383 El Rancho Lane
Alamosa, CO 81101
Dean_Lee@fws.gov with subject line “2023-2027 Sheep Grazing”
Sealed applications will be opened starting on February 27, 2023, and selected operators will be notified starting on Monday, March 6, 2023.
For more information, please reach out to Dean Lee at 1-719-589-4021 ext. 1008 or by email at Dean_Lee@fws.gov.
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.