What We Do

Urban Wildlife Conservation Program

Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge welcomes visitors from all walks of life, from near and far, to foster an appreciation for nature. As a flagship urban refuge, we strive to meaningfully engage with our communities and visitors, provide outdoor recreation opportunities to develop and enhance outdoor skills, cultivate a connection with land and wildlife conservation, improve accessibility and connect refuge lands to local communities, and be a community asset. Learn more by watching our video A Refuge For All.

School Programs

The Refuge offers free, curriculum-based wildlife and conservation education programs for K-7 students. Teachers can take students on a field trip to view and learn about wildlife and habitat year round. Each field trip is grade specific and correlated to Colorado Model Content Standards. For details, click on the School Programs link on the left navigation bar. 

Wildlife Surveys

Balancing an ecosystem for more than 330 species of wildlife is a delicate act. Especially when re-introducing an endangered species. In 2015, America’s most endangered mammal, the black-footed ferret, was reintroduced to the Refuge. With the site’s abundant black-tailed prairie dog population, which is the ferret’s main food source, it was a natural location for reintroduction. Twice a year, staff conduct ferret surveys to determine how well they are surviving and reproducing in the wild. Nighttime spotlighting is used to catch these nocturnal animals while they are hunting for prairie dogs. The spotlights catch their distinctive green eye shine. After tracking a ferret, a ring reader is placed over a prairie dog hole, which reads a microchip identifying each individual ferret as it peeks out of a prairie dog burrow.

Wildlife Monitoring

Bison were introduced to the Refuge in 2007 to help sustain prairie grasses. These strong and powerful animals are an icon of the west and the short grass prairie. Each year staff conducts a bison roundup for their health “check-up”. They are moved to the Refuge corral located northwest of the main entrance, which can be seen from the Wildlife Drive. The bison roundup also assists Refuge managers in moving bison around to other national wildlife refuges and conservation herds to sustain a diverse gene pool.

Habitat Management and Restoration

Disturbance of the prairie through decades of homesteader farming followed by U.S. Army weapons manufacturing to support war-time efforts led to degraded wildlife habitats. The discovery of roosting bald eagles led to legislation in 1992 that turned this site into 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
. Since then, Refuge staff has been diligently working to restore 11,000 acres of native grasslands and remove non-native 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
. A variety of tools including bison grazing, prescribed burns, mowing, and collecting and planting native seed are used to restore native habitats.

While at the Refuge you may see construction around the Wildlife Drive and First Creek area. This is the First Creek restoration project, which is a 2-year effort to restore 3 miles of riparian riparian
Definition of riparian habitat or riparian areas.

Learn more about riparian
wildlife corridor and 1 mile of trail. 

Management and Conservation

Refuges deploy a host of scientifically sound management tools to address biological challenges. These tools span from active water management to wilderness character monitoring, all aimed at ensuring a balanced conservation approach to benefit both wildlife and people.  At this field station, our conservation toolbox includes:

  • Comprehensive Conservation Plan
  • Compatibility Determinations
  • Cultural Resources
  • Education and Outreach
  • Fire Management
  • Habitat Restoration
  • Human Dimensions
  • Invasive Species
  • Inventory and Monitoring
  • Law Enforcement
  • Recreation Management
  • Species Research 
  • Water Management
  • Wildlife Health

Our Services

At this field station we offer the following public services by appointment:

  • America the Beautiful Passes
  • Season fishing pass for $60
  • Special Use Permit
  • Special Use Permit - Commercial Photography

Please call the Visitor Center at 303-289-0930 for details and to schedule an appointment. Please note the Visitor Center is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. All passes and permits sales are cash and check only; sorry, we cannot process debit or credit cards. Please see the information below about Special Use Permits.

Special Use Permits

Apply for a Special Use Permit

The National Wildlife Refuge System has Special Use Permit (SUP) Applications to enable the public to engage in permitted activities on 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
. Some commercial, recreational and research activities are allowed on national wildlife refuges only with a special use permit issued by the local office and are subject to specific conditions and fees.

These forms are available in a fillable format: https://www.fws.gov/service/special-use-permits-national-wildlife-refuges

For detailed information: Commercial Photography and Filming Special Use Permits Information

Which form do I need?

Commercial Activities Special Use Permit Application (FWS Form 3-1383-C) for
  • Commercial activities such as guiding interpretation, anglers, or other outdoor users
  • Commercial filming (audio, video, and photographic products of a monetary value)
Research and Monitoring Special Use Permit Application (FWS Form 3-1383-R) for
  • Research and monitoring activities by students, universities, or other non-FWS organizations
General Activity Special Use Permit Application (FWS Form 3-1383-G) for
  • Miscellaneous events (fishing tournaments, one-time events, other special events)
  • Education activity
  • Other (any activity not mentioned above)

Prospective permit holders may fill out the corresponding application and return it to the refuge for processing. Please allow at least two weeks for permit processing.

Fall and Deer Rut Photography Permits:
Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge is moving towards a defined application window for Commercial Activities Special Use Permits for Fall 2024.

Commercial Special Use Permit Applications for October 1st - December 31st 2024 must be received by September 1, 2024. Due to increase in demand and interest, each individual or organization will be limited to 7 days total. Applicants should indicate date preferences as well as alternates. Applicants will be informed of their status by September 15th. 

By email: rockymountainarsenal@fws.gov

By mail:
Rocky Mountain Arsenal NWR HQ
6550 Gateway Road
Commerce City, CO 80022

The permit is not valid until approved and signed by a refuge official.

Law Enforcement

The Colorado Front Range National Wildlife Refuge Complex consists of Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, Two Ponds National Wildlife Refuge, and Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge. The Complex is managed by the US Fish & Wildlife Service as part of the National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS). 

Refuge law enforcement is an integral part of protecting the people, property, and natural resources within the National Wildlife Refuge System. Federal wildlife officers combine the roles of conservation protection, traditional policing, emergency first response, and wildfire response to protect, serve, and educate the visiting public on the conservation efforts and the rules and regulations to protect wildlife and habitats. These roles are accomplished through partnership and trust of the public and cooperative efforts of other federal, state, and local agencies.

Laws and Regulations

Visitor safety and wildlife conservation are top priorities at the Colorado Front Range National Wildlife Refuge Complex. At times, sections of the Refuges may be closed on short notice due to wildlife needs, weather, or special projects. The Refuges are subject to federal, state, and local laws and regulations. To help make your visit safe and enjoyable, please visit the Laws and Regulations link below for details about how to enjoy and recreate responsibly at the Refuge. You can also call the Visitor Center at 303-289-0930 or monitor the website for current hours of operation and alerts before visiting.