The wetlands of Mortenson National Wildlife Refuge provide important water resources that support resting, nesting and foraging areas for migratory birds in the semiarid environment of the Laramie Plains basin. The three Laramie Plains refuges, Bamforth, Hutton Lake and Mortenson Lake are designated as Important Bird Areas by Wyoming Audubon.
The mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System is to administer a national network of lands and waters for the conservation, management and, where appropriate, restoration of the fish, wildlife and plant resources and their habitats within the United States for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.
In the 1980s, Mortenson Lake was owned by a private landowner. The Wyoming toad was thought to be extinct, but a small population was discovered on the private land around Mortenson Lake. When the toads were discovered, the rancher sold the land to The Nature Conservancy, who then donated the land to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for Wyoming toad conservation. That land then became Mortenson Lake National Wildlife Refuge and is one of several protected habitats for the Wyoming toad. Now, toads are released each year on select private and public lands across Albany County — a large-scale effort made possible by generous landowners who maintain their agricultural heritage while also providing habitat for this rare species.
Mortenson Lake National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1993 under the Endangered Species Act to protect the endangered Wyoming toad. The Service purchased an additional 151 acres for the refuge in 2003. The 1,968-acre refuge is located 15 miles southwest of Laramie. Within the refuge’s approved acquisition boundary, 598 acres remain in private ownership.
Other Facilities in this Complex
Mortenson Lake National Wildlife Refuge is managed as part of the Central Sage Steppe Conservation Complex. A Conservation Complex is a group of two or more refuges, wildlife management areas, wetland management districts, or conservation areas that are primarily managed from a central office location. Refuges are grouped into a complex because they occur in a similar region, such as a watershed or specific habitat type, and have a related purpose and management needs. Typically, a project leader oversees the management of the refuges within the complex and refuge managers are responsible for operations at specific refuges. Support staff: administrative, law enforcement, refuge manager, biological, fire, visitor services, and maintenance, are centrally located and help with all refuges within the complex.
Other refuges in the Central Sage Steppe Conservation Complex include: Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge (Walden, Colorado); Pathfinder National Wildlife Refuge (Alcova, Wyoming); Bamforth National Wildlife Refuge, Mortenson Lake National Wildlife Refuge, and the Wyoming Toad Conservation Area (Laramie, Wyoming); as well as Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge (Green River, Wyoming), Cokeville Meadows National Wildlife Refuge (Cokeville, Wyoming), and Wyoming's portion of the Bear River Watershed Conservation Area. Administrative headquarters for Arapaho, Pathfinder, and the Laramie Plains refuges is located at Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge, in Walden, CO phone number 970-732-8202, while administrative headquarters for the southwestern Wyoming refuges is located at Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge, 37 miles north of Green River on Hwy 372 - 246 Seedskadee Road, PO Box 700, Green River, WY 82935; phone number 307-875-2187.