What We Do
Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge provides food, cover, and breeding habitat for migratory birds and resident wildlife. A variety of habitat management techniques such as water control, haying, grazing, prescribed fire, and others are used to benefit wildlife.
Water is the lifeblood of the San Luis Valley. While less than 7 inches of precipitation falls annually in the Valley, spring snow melt from the Sangre de Cristo Range and San Juan Mountains supply most of the water to the valley. This spring run-off is what feeds the Rio Grande, which in turns supplies water to the various uses such as agriculture, municipalities, and natural areas throughout the valley.
On Monte Vista Refuge, water is intensively managed. Numerous dikes, ditches and other water control structures send water to a patchwork of diverse wetland habitats ranging from shallow wetlands to wet meadows to open water. These ponds and wetlands are closely monitored and managed to provide optimum habitats for the various species of birds and other animals found on the refuge.
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.
The Refuge has several agriculture fields that are used to grow small grains for use by migratory birds, primarily sandhill cranes. These grain fields provide a consistent and reliable source of food that is vital to their migration.
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
Wildlife conservation is at the heart of the National Wildlife Refuge System. It drives everything on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lands and waters managed within the Refuge System, from the purposes for which a is established to the recreational activities offered to the resource management tools used. Using conservation best practices, the Refuge System manages Service lands and waters to help ensure the survival of native wildlife species.