Directions to Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge: From the town of Monte Vista, drive south on State Hwy 15 (Gunbarrel Road) for 6 miles to the entrance of the Refuge. The small office and visitor contact station at the Refuge is located at the start of the Wildlife Drive. The visitor contact station is operated by volunteers and may not be open on a regular schedule. All brochures and refuge information will be posted in the kiosk located near the entrance of the Wildlife Drive.
Location and Contact Information
Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge is located in the San Luis Valley, a high mountain basin located in south-central Colorado. It’s one of three national wildlife refuges in the Valley that provides crucial feeding, resting, and breeding habitat for over 200 bird species and other wildlife. Alamosa and Monte Vista Refuges are located at the south-central end of the Valley and Baca Refuge is located at the north end.
The Valley, sitting at 7,800 feet, extends over 100 miles from north to south and 50 miles from east to west. Three mountain ranges surround the Valley – the Sangre de Christo to the east, the San Juan to the west, and the Saguache to the north. At sunset, the highest peaks of the Sangre de Christo range take on a blood red glow which inspired the Spanish explorers to name them after the “Blood of Christ.”
The surrounding mountains feed the arid valley with precious surface water and replenish an expansive underground reservoir. The mountain snow melt and artesian wells provide needed water to the agricultural community and to the rivers, creeks, and wetlands that thread across the valley floor.
The Refuge’s wetlands are artificially made and intensively managed to provide habitat for a variety of waterfowl and other water birds. Water from irrigation canals and wells maintain this important wetland habitat. Mallards, pintails, teal, and Canada geese are common, as are American avocets, killdeer, white-faced ibis, egrets, and herons.
This Refuge is one of over 560 refuges in the National Wildlife Refuge System – a network of lands set aside and managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service specifically for wildlife. The Refuge System is a living heritage, conserving wildlife and habitat for people today and generations to come.
What We Do
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.
Each year, thousands of Sandhill Cranes descend upon the wetlands and agricultural fields of the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge during their biannual migration to rest and fuel up for the next leg of their journey. During the spring migration, the refuge will host ninety-five percent, 18,000-21,000, of the Rocky Mountain population of the Greater Sandhill Cranes and another 5,000-6,000 Lesser Sandhill Cranes. This stop-over at the Monte Vista Refuge is critical for the cranes during their migration. At this time of year, most food sources and quality crane habitat are either under snow or are frozen. However, on the refuge, wetlands are filled, and grain fields are mowed to provide the cranes the two elements needed for their migration… food and roosting cover. The peak migration period of cranes on the Monte Vista Refuge is around the first week of March and again around the second week of October.