What We Do
The National Wildlife Refuge System is a series of lands and waters owned and managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Wildlife conservation is at the heart of the refuge system. It drives everything we do from the purpose a refuge is established, to the recreational activities offered there, to the resource management tools we use. Selecting the right tools helps us ensure the survival of local plants and animals and helps fulfill the purpose of the refuge.
Some of resource management tools used at Bosque del Apache include prescribed fire, moist soil management, exotic plant control, water level manipulation, and agricultural production.
Management and Conservation
Refuges use a wide range of land management tools based on the best science available. The management tools used are aimed at ensuring a balanced conservation approach where both wildlife and people will benefit. At Bosque del Apache, our conservation toolbox includes: prescribed burning, exotic plant control, moist soil management, farming, and water level manipulation. These tools help refuge staff manage the landscape as the Rio Grande historically did.
The refuge uses gates and dams to flood and drain certain wetlands on seasonal schedules. Lowering water levels in marshes to create moist fields promotes growth of native marsh plants. Marsh management is rotated so that varied habitats are always available. Dry impoundments are disced or burned, then re-flooded, to allow natural marsh plants to grow. When mature marsh conditions are reached, the cycle is repeated. Wildlife foods grown this way include smartweed, millets, chufa, bulrush, and sedges.
Many cottonwood and willow bosques that once lined the Rio Grande have been lost to human developments. Saltcedar or "tamarisk," originally introduced as an ornamental plant and for erosion control, has taken over vast areas. It is a plant that has very little value to wildlife. Saltcedar is being cleared and areas are being planted with cottonwood, black willow, and understory plants to restore native bosques that are used by wildlife to nest, rest and feed.
Irrigation canals ensure critical water flow. Daily monitoring, mowing, and clearing keeps them functioning. Controlling the water enables refuge staff to manage the habitat. Throughout the refuge, a network of small canals connects different “moist soil units” with the region’s main water supply, which is a 57-mile canal that runs along the river. Each moist-soil unit can be flooded or drained as needed to grow the best mix of wetland plants to feed migrating birds. With wetland plants hearty and thriving, a great diversity of native wildlife -- from prowling coyotes to year-round and migratory birds – continue to live in and around the wetlands.
At Bosque del Apache, we offer the following public services:
Purchase an America the Beautiful pass
Special Use Permits - please send questions and completed applications to BosqueDelApacheNWR@fws.gov (you may reach out to this email address for a special use permit application). Please allow at least 3 weeks for us to process your permit. We do not allow commercial photography workshops during the Festival of the Cranes excluding approved Festival of the Crane workshops (December 6-9, 2023).
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
In order to protect the integrity of refuge lands, there are regulations that must be adhered to when visiting. Activities not expressly allowed are prohibited. If you have any questions, please check with refuge staff by calling 575-835-1828 during business hours. For comprehensive regulations, please refer to the Code of Federal Regulations.