|Baca National Wildlife Refuge|
IUCN category IV (habitat/species management area)
|Location||Saguache & Alamosa counties, Colorado, United States|
|Area||78,697 acres (318.48 km2)|
|Governing body||U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service|
|Website||Baca National Wildlife Refuge|
The Baca National Wildlife Refuge is a 78,697-acre (31,848 ha) United States National Wildlife Refuge located in southern Colorado. It is within the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area.
Many bird species such as the kestrel, great horned owl, northern flicker, robin, yellow warbler, and Bullock's oriole roam in the riparian areas of this refuge. Waterfowl that inhabit here include mallard, pintail, teal, Canada goose, avocet, killdeer, white-faced ibis, egret, and heron.
The wildlife refuge is located on the lands of the Luis Maria Baca Grant No. 4 near Crestone, Colorado in the San Luis Valley in southern Saguache and northern Alamosa counties, about 30 miles (48 km) northeast of the town of Alamosa, on the west side of the Sangre de Cristo Range.
The site was authorized by the United States Congress in 2000 as part of legislation that also authorized the nearby Great Sand Dunes National Park. It was formally established in 2003 when administration began under the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. It is administered jointly with the nearby Alamosa and Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuges, as part of the Alamosa/Baca/Monte Verde Complex.
The Baca National Wildlife Refuge consists of rangeland and some riparian wetlands. The original ranch headquarters and other buildings are on the wildlife refuge. As is usual on federal wildlife refuges, grazing and hay production continue on a limited basis. It includes several thousand acres of irrigated hay meadows.
Several streams arising in the nearby Sangre de Cristos flow onto the Refuge. Crestone Creek in its lower reaches is a spring-fed perennial stream inhabited by four native fish species: Rio Grande sucker (Catostomus plebeius), Rio Grande chub (Gila pandora), fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas), and longnose dace (Rhinichthys cataractae)
The establishment of the refuge and national park was part of complex land transfers undertaken by the federal government in cooperation with the Nature Conservancy and the State of Colorado. 3,300 acres (1,300 ha) of the land was previously under the management of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and was transferred to the Fish and Wildlife Service.Approximately
Approximately 97,036 acres (39,269 ha) of the land for the refuge and park was part of the historic Baca Ranch and was purchased by the Nature Conservancy before its transfer to the federal government. The refuge forms part of complex of wetlands in the San Luis Valley consists of lands of nearby landowners, including the Colorado Board of Land Commissioners, the National Park Service, and the Nature Conservancy.
The mineral rights to the lands of the Baca NWR are owned by a third party, Lexam Explorations (U.S.A.) Inc. (Lexam). There is believed to be a small chance that commercial quantities of natural gas may be discovered (An existing artesian well on the land, called "the gas well", produced enough gas to heat one home).
Litigation by the San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council contesting the environmental assessment with respect to the drilling of two exploratory wells resulted in a settlement in September, 2010 requiring preparation of a new assessment by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.Completion of a draft environmental assessment was announced by the Fish and Wildlife Service on January 7, 2011 and was made available for download or viewing at the refuge's website.
Proposed executive summary:
Implementation of the Preferred Alternative – the Service is requiring that specific protective measures and standards are followed during all phases of oil and gas exploration being proposed by Lexam, including the intended drilling of two exploratory gas wells on the Refuge, to ensure maximum protection of the surface estate (including all surface and subsurface natural resources not considered minerals) of the Refuge and associated cultural, socioeconomic, and aesthetic resources from unreasonable degradation or impacts. With these requirements incorporated into Lexam’s Plan of Operations, potential impacts are expected to be less than significant in regards to NEPA. Information gathered in this Draft EA indicates that the temporary nature of the proposed exploration (<180 days), along with implementation of the preferred alternative, will not unreasonably degrade or result in significant impacts to the surface estate (including all surface and subsurface natural resources not considered to be minerals) of the Refuge and associated cultural, socioeconomic, and aesthetic resources.
A public meeting was held in January 2011 at the Colorado College Baca Campus Conference Center in Crestone, Colorado. It was an informational open house with a presentation by the Fish and Wildlife Service followed by a question-and-answer session. Written comments regarding the environmental assessment were accepted at this meeting.
"There’s no legal way to say ‘no’ for that mineral owner to access those minerals," [Mike Blenden, Project Leader, San Luis Valley NWR Complex] said.
Comments can also be sent via mail to David Lucas, Chief, Division of Refuge Planning, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Division of Refuge Planning, P.O. Box 25484, Denver, CO 80225-0486 or via email to: BacaDraftEAComments at fws.gov and must be received no later than February 7, 2011.
The draft assessment includes consideration of the option of purchasing the mineral rights but rejects the $8.4 million demanded by Lexam as not a fair market price. By the terms of a Federal District Court settlement the final environmental assessment is due April 1, 2011.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Baca National Wildlife Refuge .|
The San Luis Valley is a region in south-central Colorado with a small portion overlapping into New Mexico. The Rio Grande with headwaters in the San Juan Mountains about seven miles east of Silverton, Colorado flows through the San Luis Valley and then south into New Mexico. It contains 6 counties and portions of 3 others. The San Luis Valley was ceded to the United States by Mexico following the Mexican–American War. Hispanic settlers began moving north and settling in the valley after the United States made a treaty with the Utes and established a fort. Prior to the Mexican war the Spanish and Mexican governments had reserved the valley to the Utes, their allies. During the 19th century Anglo settlers settled in the valley and engaged in mining, ranching, and irrigated agriculture. Today the valley has a diverse Anglo and Hispanic population.
The Sangre de Cristo Range is a high, rugged and narrow mountain range of the Rocky Mountains in southern Colorado in the United States, running north and south along the east side of the Rio Grande Rift. The mountains extend southeast from Poncha Pass for about 75 mi (121 km) through south-central Colorado to La Veta Pass, approximately 20 mi (32 km) west of Walsenburg, and form a high ridge separating the San Luis Valley on the west from the watershed of the Arkansas River on the east. The Sangre de Cristo Range rises over 7,000 ft (2,100 m) above the valleys and plains to the west and northeast.
The Town of Crestone is a statutory town in Saguache County, Colorado, United States. The town population was 127 at the 2010 United States Census. It is a small village at the foot of the western slope of the Sangre de Cristo Range, in the northern part of the San Luis Valley. Crestone was a small mining town, but little paying ore was discovered. In the 1970s, a large land development, the Baca Grande, was established to the south and west where several hundred homes have been built.
Saguache County is one of the 64 counties in the U.S. state of Colorado. As of the 2010 census, the population was 6,108. The county seat is Saguache.
Alamosa County is one of the 64 counties of the U.S. state of Colorado. As of the 2010 census, the population was 15,445. The county seat is Alamosa. The county name is the Spanish language word for a "grove of cottonwood trees."
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is an American national park that conserves an area of large sand dunes up to 750 feet (229 m) tall on the eastern edge of the San Luis Valley, and an adjacent national preserve in the Sangre de Cristo Range, in south-central Colorado, United States. The park was originally designated Great Sand Dunes National Monument on March 17, 1932, by President Herbert Hoover. The original boundaries protected an area of 35,528 acres. A boundary change and redesignation as a national park and preserve was authorized on November 22, 2000, and then established by an act of Congress on September 24, 2004. The park encompasses 107,342 acres while the preserve protects an additional 41,686 acres for a total of 149,028 acres. The recreational visitor total was 527,546 in 2019.
The Sangre de Cristo Mountains are the southernmost subrange of the Rocky Mountains. They are located in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico in the United States. The mountains run from Poncha Pass in South-Central Colorado, trending southeast and south, ending at Glorieta Pass, southeast of Santa Fe, New Mexico. The mountains contain a number of fourteen thousand foot peaks in the Colorado portion, as well as all the peaks in New Mexico which are over thirteen thousand feet.
Crestone Peak is the seventh-highest summit of the Rocky Mountains of North America and the U.S. state of Colorado. The prominent 14,300-foot (4,359 m) fourteener is the highest summit of the Crestones and the second-highest summit in the Sangre de Cristo Range after Blanca Peak. The summit is located in the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness of Rio Grande National Forest, 5.0 miles (8.1 km) east by south of the Town of Crestone in Saguache County, Colorado, United States.
The Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge is an 11,169-acre (4,520 ha) United States National Wildlife Refuge located in southern Colorado. The site is located in the San Luis Valley along the east side of the Rio Grande approximately 8 miles (13 km) southeast of Alamosa primarily in southeastern Alamosa County, although very small parts extend into northeastern Conejos and western Costilla counties. It is managed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service jointly with the Baca and Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuges. It was established in 1962 as a haven for migratory birds and other wildlife.
Kit Carson Peak is a high mountain summit of the Crestones in the Sangre de Cristo Range of the Rocky Mountains of North America. Officially designated Kit Carson Mountain, the 14,171-foot (4,319 m) fourteener is located 5.2 miles (8.4 km) east by south of the Town of Crestone in Saguache County, Colorado, United States. The name Kit Carson Mountain is used for both the massif with three summits, or to describe the main summit only. The mountain is named in honor of frontiersman Christopher Houston "Kit" Carson. The Crestones are a cluster of high summits in the Sangre de Cristo Range, comprising Crestone Peak, Crestone Needle, Kit Carson Peak, Challenger Point, Humboldt Peak, and Columbia Point. They are usually accessed from common trailheads.
Rio Grande National Forest is a 1.86 million-acre (7,530 km²) U.S. National Forest located in southwestern Colorado. The forest encompasses the San Luis Valley, which is the world's largest agricultural alpine valley, as well as one of the world's largest high deserts located around mountains. The Rio Grande river rises in the forest, and the Continental Divide runs along most of its western border. The forest lies in parts of nine counties. In descending order of land area within the forest they are Saguache, Mineral, Conejos, Rio Grande, Hinsdale, San Juan, Alamosa, Archuleta, and Custer counties. Forest headquarters are currently located in Monte Vista, Colorado, but will move to Del Norte as early as February of 2020. There are local ranger district offices in Del Norte, La Jara, and Saguache.
Columbia Point is a high mountain summit of the Crestones in the Sangre de Cristo Range of the Rocky Mountains of North America. The 13,986-foot (4,263 m) thirteener is located 5.5 miles (8.8 km) east by south of the Town of Crestone in Saguache County, Colorado, United States. The Crestones are a cluster of high summits in the Sangre de Cristo Range, comprising Crestone Peak, Crestone Needle, Kit Carson Peak, Challenger Point, Humboldt Peak, and Columbia Point.
The Luis Maria Baca Grant No. 4, south of Crestone, Colorado, was a large land grant made in 1860 by the United States to the heirs of the original Vegas Grandes Grant at Las Vegas, New Mexico. Title to the grant at Las Vegas was clouded by a second grant of the same land. The Baca heirs were offered alternative lands from the public lands of the United States. The largest of the tracts selected, near what is now Crestone, was 12.5 miles (20.1 km) on a side and was located to the south of what is now Saguache County Road T, about 1-mile (1.6 km) south of the 38th parallel. The Bacas deeded the land to their attorney, but it soon passed by tax sale to a third party. The ranch headquarters was on Crestone Creek to the southwest of Crestone. The Baca Grant was one of the first large tracts of land to be fenced in the West and in its heyday was the home of prize Hereford cattle.
The Sangre de Cristo Wilderness is a long and narrow wilderness area covering 220,803 acres (893.56 km2) of the Sangre de Cristo Range centered about Saguache and Custer counties, Colorado. Smaller areas are located in Fremont, Alamosa, and Huerfano counties. All of the wilderness area is located on U.S. Forest Service land within the San Isabel and Rio Grande National Forests and Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. The wilderness area is home to several fourteeners and quite a few thirteeners. Crestone Needle is considered the most difficult.
Saguache County Road T is a county road in Saguache County, Colorado in the San Luis Valley of Colorado. It is "T" in a series of alphabetically named east-west roads which begin at State Highway 112, the south boundary of Saguache County, which would be Road A, if it were not a state highway. Road T is a through road across the valley, crossing U.S. Highway 285 at Swede's Corners about 6 miles south of Saguache, Colorado but is paved only from Moffat, Colorado east 12.5 miles to Crestone, Colorado. The eastern portion of Road T forms the north boundary of the Baca National Wildlife Refuge.
Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area is a federally designated National Heritage Area in the south central portion of the U.S. state of Colorado. The heritage area includes the San Luis Valley and portions of the Sangre de Cristo Range. The region combines influences of Anglo-American, Hispano-American and Native American influences. It also includes portions of the upper Rio Grande valley.
The San Luis Valley Conservation Area is a proposed "landscape scale" National Conservation Area in south-central Colorado and far northern New Mexico which would be administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:
The Closed Basin Project is a groundwater extraction project in the San Luis Valley in Colorado, United States, operated by the United States Bureau of Reclamation.
The San Luis Closed Basin is a 2,940-square-mile endorheic basin in the Alamosa and Saguache counties of south-central Colorado. It includes San Luis Creek and its tributary, Saguache Creek. While the basin is east of the majority of the Rocky Mountains, it lies west of the Sangre de Cristo Range. An elevated plateau in Alamosa County, the San Luis Hills, separates the San Luis Closed Basin drainage from most of the San Luis Valley, which is southward-flowing and drains through the Rio Grande.