Baca National Wildlife Refuge

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BACA NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE
Wetlands and Wildlife

The extraordinary gathering of waters in the Baca NWR feeds over 15,000 acres of irrigated wetlands and another 10,000 acres of natural wetlands and playas -- considered among the most concentrated, pristine and biologically diverse wetlands in the southwestern United States. These ever shifting, dynamic wetlands provide critical habitat for numerous migratory birds that come to the San Luis Valley to forage, breed and rear their young each year.

For nearly 200 years the Baca NWR was a privately owned cattle ranch. For this and other reasons, the refuge ecosystems are exceptionally intact, diverse and pristine. Since scientists have not had access to the Refuge lands, no comprehensive studies or inventories have been conducted. Biological assessments conducted in adjacent areas by the prestigious Colorado Natural Heritage Program (CNHP), have identified these lands as the largest, most concentrated area of Outstanding Biodiversity Significance in the San Luis Valley. At least 4 CNHP Potential Conservation Areas extend naturally into the Refuge. The Great Sand Dunes National Park supports species, landscapes and habitats found nowhere else on earth. These unique systems depend upon the intact wetland and groundwater systems of the adjacent Baca NWR.

These, and other studies suggest that the Baca NWR could support more than 70 rare plants and animals including a recently discovered population of the endangered Rio Grande sucker, the rare Brazilian free-tailed bat, mountain plover, northern goshawk, Wilson's phalarope, burrowing owls and the largest known population of the globally imperiled slender spider flower. The Refuge also provides important habitat for the Valley’s large resident elk herd that depends upon the secluded calving grounds and critical winter habitat available on the remote refuge lands.