Public lands: Feds finalizing management plan for wildlife refuges in Colorado’s San Luis Valley

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Wetlands in Colorado’s San Luis Valley form the heart of a 106,000-acre complex of wildlife refuges. Photo via USFWS.

Restoration and public use among the key focus areas

Staff Report

FRISCO — After years of planning and public input, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials this week said they’ve completed all the environmental studies and a conservation plan for the San Luis Valley National Wildlife Refuge Complex, in south-central Colorado.

The plan covers about 106,000 acres across three national wildlife refuges: Alamosa, Monte Vista, and Baca National Wildlife Refuges, home to the hundreds of year round resident birds-and an important stop-over location for migratory birds during their long journey between their breeding grounds to north and their wintering grounds to the south. This conservation plan will guide the long-term management for these important and diverse wetlands, riparian areas, playas, and grasslands in the San Luis Valley over the next 15 years.

The plan focuses on restoring native plant and animal communities and increasing public use, opportunities for hunting, wildlife observation, photography, interpretation, and environmental education.

“Our goal with this CCP is to have a dynamic and comprehensive management tool that will preserve the integrity and beauty of these refuges-while providing for the thousands of migratory birds and resident species that call these refuges home,” said Sharon Vaughn, project leader for the San Luis Valley National Wildlife Refuge Complex.

The agency will post the plan and all related documents here: http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/refuges/refugesUpdate/alm_bac_mtv.php.

The plan discusses several topics of public interest:

  • The management of elk populations across the Refuge Complex;
  • whether bison conservation should be accommodated on Baca National Wildlife Refuge;
  • whether to open the Baca National Wildlife Refuge to public uses including hunting and wildlife observation and whether to expand opportunities for public use on Monte Vista and Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge;
  • how the Service should manage its water resources on the Refuge Complex to meet the purposes of the refuges; and
  • whether to recommend protection of  potential wilderness values on the Baca National Wildlife Refuge.

The final decision will be documented in a record of decision that will be published in the Federal Register no sooner than 30 days after filing the document with the Environmental Protection Agency.

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