‘Burn for the Birds’ Treats Wildlife Refuge in Monte Vista

By Helena Alvarez

In late October, partners from several agencies conducted a prescribed burn on Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge. Staff at the refuge work throughout the year to provide healthy wetlands and plants for birds and other wildlife — and fire mitigation is one of the many tools they use.

Along the refuge trail and wildlife drive, it’s hard to miss burned areas. But as you drive by these barren-looking patches, take note and remember their locations. Spring’s warmer temperatures will transform the charred surfaces into colorful landscapes abuzz with activity, says refuge manager Suzanne Beauchaine.

Photo courtesy Monte Vista Crane Festival.

Fire helps to remove thick layers of dead vegetation, where invasive weeds often flourish. The burned areas warm up quickly in spring, providing nutritious new plant shoots, insects and places to rest for migrating birds such as Sandhill Cranes and several duck species.

Keep an especially close lookout this coming March, as these could be the preferred areas for Sandhill Cranes.

“The steps to safely burn an area are intensive and involve many people,” Beauchaine says.

Refuge staff would like to thank the following agencies for their help and for working to improve public lands for everyone, including future generations: US Forest Service, Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control, NPS, BLM and Refuge Staff from the San Luis Valley NWR Complex, Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, Rainwater Wetland Management District and Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge.

Mark your calendars for the Monte Vista Crane Festival, March 9-11, 2018…

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