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 local plants and animals and helps fulfill the purpose of the refuge.

Management and Conservation

Refuges use a wide range of land management tools based on the best science available. Some refuges use prescribed fires to mimic natural fires that would have cleared old vegetation from the land helping native plants regenerate and local wildlife to thrive. Other refuges contain Wilderness areas where land is largely managed passively. The management tools used are aimed at ensuring a balanced conservation approach where both wildlife and people will benefit. At this field station our conservation toolbox includes: restoring and protecting wetlands, planting native trees, and prescribed burning.  

Restoring and Protecting Wetlands: 

Since the refuge was established in 1982, refuge staff have added more than 20 wetland impoundments. While benefitting all wildlife in the area, the impoundments are primarily habitat for the native fish species. They are designed to allow water to flow through them, which is how the historic ciénega of the region functioned.  

The water from the impoundments flows through water control structures into Black Draw or Hay Hollow Wash providing additional aquatic habitat by creating permanent sections of a stream. Refuge staff use gabions (a wire basket filled with rocks) to slow down the rate of erosion of the incised channels.  

Planting Native Trees: 

Refuge staff plant native tree species, such as cottonwood and willow, along the refuge’s various seeps and channels. The planting of these trees provides shade, which cools the waters and slows evaporation of surface or near surface water. The trees also catch debris and sediment during floods; serve as hiding places for some aquatic species, and homes to others. Insects drop into the wetlands from overhanging branches, providing food for the fish below.  

Prescribed Burning: 

Since 1982, the refuge has used prescribed fire to mimic the historic wildfires of the region prior to European settlement. Prescribed burning removes the woody plants that invaded the grasslands when fire was suppressed. It allows native grasses and upland areas to recover for the benefit of native wildlife species. Federal wildland firefighters work closely with refuge management to attain habitat management goals. They monitor weather and fuel conditions to ensure the burns achieve the best results for the habitat. 

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. Some other duties include patrolling closed areas or Wilderness areas, maintaining relationships with neighboring landowners, maintaining refuge boundaries and participating in public events related to refuge issues.  

Law enforcement issues should be referred to the deputy refuge manager or refuge manager.  

To report a violation on the San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge:  

  • Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.), call 520-364-2104 ext. 103 or 105 

  • After hours or on weekends, call 520-732-9668 or 520-368-8205  

For injured wildlife, please contact a qualified wildlife rehabilitation facility near you licensed through the Arizona Game and Fish Department

Laws and Regulations

There are fun, interesting, and educational things you can do on the refuge. Keep in mind, if an activity is not wildlife related and does not help in the protection or understanding of wildlife or their habitat, there are probably refuge rules governing this activity. Please check with the refuge management before participating in an activity that could harm the environment or yourself. There are plenty of activities at San Bernardino National Refuge for you to enjoy. Be safe and have fun!