What We Do

The National Wildlife Refuge System is a series of lands and waters owned and managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Wildlife conservation is at the heart of the refuge system. It drives everything we do from the purpose a refuge is established, to the recreational activities offered there, to the resource management tools we use. Selecting the right tools helps us ensure the survival of the nation’s wildlife resources and conserving the natural resources for the benefit of present and future generations. 

San Andres  National Wildlife Refuge conducts a variety of management actions to conserve the plants and animals of the Chihuahuan Desert, and particularly desert bighorn sheep. 

The refuge works with several partners to conduct scientific research. Currently, the refuge is working with White Sands Missile Range and the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish to monitor desert bighorn using GPS collars. The refuge also regularly samples desert bighorn and oryx for diseases. 

From 1999-2011, the refuge and White Sands Missile Range conducted a series of prescribed burns for desert bighorn habitat management. Prescribed fire is used to reduce woody vegetation such as juniper that were encroaching into former grasslands. The fires also recycle nutrients into the soil and improve the nutritional value of plants that bighorn and mule deer eat. 

The refuge continually manages invasive (non-native) species, both plants and animals. Invasive species are capable of causing extinctions of native plants and animals, reducing biodiversity, competing with native organisms for limited resources, and altering habitats. San Andres National Wildlife Refuge is working to control several invasive plants and animals, including salt cedar, Russian thistle, yellow bluestem, Lehmann lovegrass, oryx (gemsbok) and barbary sheep (aoudad). 

Management and Conservation

Refuges use a wide range of land management tools based on the best science available. The management tools used are aimed at ensuring a balanced conservation approach where both wildlife and people will benefit.  

Law Enforcement

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service law enforcement officers have a wide variety of duties and responsibilities. Officers help visitors understand and obey wildlife protection laws. They work closely with state and local government offices to enforce federal, state and refuge hunting regulations that protect migratory birds and other game species from illegal take and preserve legitimate hunting opportunities. 

Laws and Regulations

San Andres National Wildlife Refuge is entirely inside the boundaries of White Sands Missile Range, an active military testing facility. Public access is restricted by the missile range. There are no recreational opportunities available to the public on refuge lands. We welcome you to visit the Refuge Administrative office in Las Cruces to learn about the refuge and acquire the San Andres National Wildlife Refuge passport stamp.