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
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.
San Luis Valley NWR Complex Sheep Bid Packet
Form 3-1383-C - Special Use Application - pdf
Form 3-1383-C - Special Use Application - doc
Form 3-1384 - Sheep Bid Form & Questionare
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 national wildlife refuge national wildlife refuge
A national wildlife refuge is typically a contiguous area of land and water managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the conservation and, where appropriate, restoration of fish, wildlife and plant resources and their habitats for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.
Learn more about national wildlife refuge 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.