The Ouray National Wildlife Refuge was established on 25 May, 1960, by the authority of the Migratory Bird Conservation Act of 1929. Land Acquisition was initiated in November 1960 through the use of Duck Stamp funds. The Refuge became operational in late 1961 for ?use as an inviolate sanctuary, or for any other management purpose, for migratory birds?. The Refuge lies in the Uintah Basin located in northeastern Utah in Uintah County. The executive boundary of the Refuge consists of 11,987 acres. This acreage includes 2,692 acres of Tribal lands, 1,153 acres of leased State lands, 3,110 acres removed from public domain, and 5,032 acres of fee purchased lands. The climate for the area is that of a cold desert biome with low precipitation and extremes in temperatures. Annual average precipitation is approximately 8 inches with the majority falling in the spring and fall. Temperatures range is from -45 F to +104 F with an average of 113 frost-free days. Soils in the upland benches are fine sand or fine sand loam intermixed with rough, stony broken ground. Bottomland soils are fine sand, sandy loam, clay loam, or silty clay. The uplands are separated from the bottom lands by broken and stony bluffs of sandstone and shale. Some of the soils exhibit a fairly high degree of alkalinity, including both calcium and sodium salts.

Ornithological Summary

Criterion UT-1: Sites important to endangered, threatened or species of special concern in Utah.
STATE ENDANGERED SPECIES: American peregrine falcon - occasional sightings
Southwestern willow flycatcher - willow flycatchers present, southwestern possible
STATE THREATENED SPECIES: Bald eagle - fall/winter migrant
Ferruginous Hawk - occasional sightings
Yellow-billed cuckoo - past nesting history
STATE SENSITIVE SPECIES: Swainson?s Hawk - past nesting history
Black tern - past nesting history
Burrowing owl - past nesting history
Common yellowthroat - present spring/summer/fall
Short-eared owl - present all year
American white pelican - present spring/summer/fall
Osprey - occasional sighting
Long-billed curlew - spring/summer migrant
Lewis? woodpecker - occasional sighting - past nesting history
Blue grossbeak - spring/summer use

Criterion UT-2: Utah Partners in Flight Priority Species. Lewis? woodpecker - occasional sighting - past nesting history
American avocet - present spring/summer/fall - known nester
American white pelican - present spring/summer/fall
Virginia?s warbler - present summer/fall
Long-billed curlew - present spring/summer
Brewer?s sparrow - present spring/summer/fall
Black-necked stilt - present spring/summer/fall-known nester
Ferruginous Hawk - occasional sightings
Black-throated gray warbler - past history as migrant
Sage Grouse - past history
Black Rosy Finch - possible
Broad-tailed Hummingbird - past history
Yellow-billed cuckoo - present - past history of nesting
Sage sparrow - present all seasons

Criterion UT-3: Site containing species assemblages associated with a representative, rare or threatened natural community in Utah.
Of the five priority habitats identified by the Utah Avian Conservation Strategy, Ouray NWR contains 3. Our Lowland Riparian contains three species: Broad-tailed hummingbird, yellow-billed cuckoo, and black-throated gray warbler which are all species that need more inventory and monitoring. The Refuge Wetland habitat has nesting populations of American avocets and black-necked stilts and high use by American white pelicans. The Shrubsteppe habitat has occasional sightings of Ferruginous hawk, a history of use by sage grouse, and good populations of both Brewers and sage sparrows. Also, Ouray NWR is considered the most significant single stand of riparian cottonwood on the entire Green River and perhaps the entire Colorado River Drainage. See section on Habitat and Land Use for estimated % of habitat types.

The most recent long-term project involved a Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship (MAPS) banding project using constant-effort mist netting was conducted from 1996-2000 to monitor breeding Neotropical migratory bird species using riparian habitats of Utah. A general avian survey has been conducted somewhat routinely since 1972 of the bottomlands and moist soil units of the refuge to document use by waterfowl, marsh/water/shorebirds, and raptors. A baseline inventory of all habitats was conducted using area searches on 30 sites from spring of 2000 through winter of 2002. Point counts were initiated in 2001 at 50 sites to begin efforts in developing a long-term database for monitoring riparian habitats. Utah Division of Wildlife Resources has conducted surveys in search of breeding yellow-billed cuckoos.

A recent National Wildlife Refuge System mandates states that while ?Wildlife Comes First?, refuges are also to provide opportunities for research and education when compatible.

Ouray NWR is considered the most significant single stand of riparian cottonwood on the entire Green River and perhaps the entire Colorado River Drainage.

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