Baca National Wildlife Refuge

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BACA NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE
Culture and Community

People have been drawn to the land now designated as the Baca NWR since the dawn of civilization in North America. Evidence of human’s date more than 11,5000 years back to the early Clovis hunters who foraged, fished and hunted among Pleistocene animals who roamed the vast grasslands of the San Luis Valley. A continuous flow of people and cultures followed including the Folsom and more recent Ute, Pueblo and Hopi Tewa Peoples. According to Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of Natural History archeologist’s who have studied prehistoric land use in the eastern Closed Basin of the San Luis Valley since 1979, “400 generations of humans lived in the area now contained within the Baca NWR. They left behind thousands of archeological sites and millions of artifacts”, “Archeological evidence and expertise indicates that burials of Paleoindian and/or later indigenous peoples are expected [to be buried] on the Baca NWR” (Jodry and Stanford, 2007).

The region’s rich Spanish and Mexican heritages are also reflected in the Baca NWR. Ranching and agriculture have long been important in the Baca NWR and remain a foundational part of the economy and lifestyles in the San Luis Valley to this day. Because of its many extraordinary features, the Baca NWR has been chosen for inclusion in the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area currently being considered by Congress. Only the third National Heritage Area to be proposed for designation west of the Mississippi, the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area has been nationally recognized for its important historical, ecological, geographic, geological and cultural resources that make a unique contribution to the Nations history.

Perhaps not surprising is the advent of a modern culture of sustainability that is emerging in the communities surrounding the Baca NWR. The Crestone/Baca is home to the largest concentration of retreat centers in North America. Drawn here by the extraordinary beauty, solitude and splendor of the unique high-elevation rural setting, more than 20 spiritual centers, representing traditions as far ranging as the Catholic Carmelites to the ancient Bon religion of Tibet, reside here in an effort of harmony. The Japanese Shumei International Institute has its headquarters in the mountains overlooking the Baca NWR. The Crestone Baca community is home to the famous Lindisfarne Chapel and Padmasambhava and Tashi Gomang Stupas, among other important spiritual monuments.