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. 

Approximately 250 acres of the available crop fields are in production each year depending on the availability of water. Winter wheat and triticale, as well oats and barley, are planted for wintering and migrating waterfowl and cranes. 

The 700 acres of wetland habitat on the refuge includes three lakes which are supplemented during the wet years by two natural playa lakes. Lakes 12, 13, and 14 store water and are managed by the Vermejo Conservancy District for irrigation to local farmers, ranchers and the refuge. Open water serves as loafing areas for waterfowl, year round habitat for marsh birds, and habitat for shorebirds on the seasonally flooded mudflats. Shorelines have beneficial vegetation such as smartweed and bulrush that provides ideal nesting cover and substrate for invertebrates, which waterfowl and shorebirds will feed on. Many species depend upon the refuge's wetland habitat for part or all of their life cycle. 

Woodlots on the refuge are primarily plains cottonwood, Siberian elm, white poplar, and New Mexico locust. The woodlots are actually remnants of old homesteads that today provide unique foraging and nesting habitat for raptors, migrant songbirds, and other important species. Look for Swainson’s hawks, red-tailed hawks, great horned owls, ravens, mourning doves, wild turkey, warblers, and orioles. The woodlots also provide cover for resident mule deer and white-tailed deer and occasional visitors such as mountain lion and black bear. 

Management and Conservation

Providing optimal habitat for wildlife on the refuge is a management priority. Refuge management practices such as browse or grain crop production, prescribed burning, invasive species invasive species
An invasive species is any plant or animal that has spread or been introduced into a new area where they are, or could, cause harm to the environment, economy, or human, animal, or plant health. Their unwelcome presence can destroy ecosystems and cost millions of dollars.

Learn more about invasive species
control, and water manipulation enhance species diversity by ensuring a variety of habitat types. 

Law Enforcement

and responsibilities. Officers help visitors understand and obey wildlife protection laws. Refuge officers address illegal activities including poaching, taking of endangered species, dumping of trash, illegal operation of all terrain vehicles, trespassing and more. They enforce certain regulations that are necessary for the safety of visitors and the protection of wildlife and wildlife habitat. Visitors to the refuge are subject to Federal, State, and local laws and regulations.  

Sometimes the refuge must close public areas due to improvements that are being made, prescribed burns, or other management issues. This information and associated regulations are posted at the Visitor Center so please be sure to check in to learn more about what is happening. 

Law enforcement issues should be referred to the refuge manager at 575-375-2331, Ext. 200 

You may also report violations to New Mexico State Police at 505-652-0861 

Injured Wildlife:  Please contact The Wildlife Center, a State permitted wildlife hospital located in Espanola, New Mexico. Their telephone number is 505-753-9505. 

Laws and Regulations

Special Use Permits enable the public to engage in legitimate wildlife-related activities and ensure that such activities are carried out in a manner that safeguards wildlife. Additionally, some permits promote conservation efforts by authorizing scientific research, generating data, or allowing wildlife management and rehabilitation activities to go forward. 
At Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge, wildlife comes first. For this reason, Special Use Permits (SUP) are required in order to conduct the following types of activities 

  • General  
  • Research 
  • Commercial