By Bruce Finley
The proposed Sangre de Cristo Conservation Area is advancing today with an unprecedented offer to protect 90,000 acres that includes three fourteener peaks — aimed at encouraging other private landowners to participate.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said he will announce an agreement with billionaire New York hedge- fund manager and conservationist Louis Bacon for an easement preventing future development.
This would be one of the largest easements the federal government has secured — and the largest parcel the Obama administration has protected in its campaign to preserve pristine landscapes for wildlife and recreation.
Bacon’s holdings span grasslands, forests and tundra between Great Sand Dunes National Park and La Veta Pass on the east side of the San Luis Valley — including Mount Lindsey and Blanca and Little Bear peaks. The parcel would fill a crucial gap in the emerging 5-millon-acre corridor through Colorado and New Mexico.
“You really have to have the long view of what’s going to be happening with these lands. As the population of the United States grows from 370 million to 400 million people, there’s going to be increasing pressure on these lands to take them out of the agriculture and wildlife status,” Salazar said in an interview Thursday.
BY: Lauren Krizansky, Courier staff writer
Posted: Saturday, Jun 16th, 2012
FORT GARLAND — True to his reputation and his family’s legacy, Trinchera Ranch owner and conservationist Louis Bacon is taking the first of many steps to establish and encourage private land preservation in the San Luis Valley.
Yesterday at the Fort Garland Museum in Fort Garland, Bacon announced his intended donation of the 90,000-acre Blanca Ranch conservation easement located in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“I have worked on a number of conservation and preservation projects in the United States and overseas, but nothing with the scope and importance of my efforts on Trinchera Ranch,” Bacon said to a supportive crowd of Valley residents, politicians and environmental enthusiasts. “This action will protect the Blanca Ranch in perpetuity and create a key connection in the large, diverse system of protected lands here along the Sangre de Cristo range and in the San Luis Valley.”
Bacon owns the Blanca and Trinchera Ranches located north and east of Fort Garland, respectively. The Forbes family previously owned the 172,000-acre parcel, in which a Colorado Open Lands easement partially protects. The Blanca Ranch donation will protect the entire 172,000-acre site into an easement that should be completed by September 1 and is being considered the foundation for the proposed Sangre de Cristo Conservation Area, which the service is in the process of establishing.
“It is a great day for me because when I did buy the ranch, I made a verbal commitment that I would try to do what the Forbes had done on the other side of the ranch, which was protect it,” Bacon said. “The Department of the Interior and the Fish and Wildlife Service came up with the idea of the conservation area together, and sparked my initiative to discuss with them a private public partnership, which to me is very exciting and I hope this is an example to other landholders.”
The diverse iconic landscapes of these ranches feature breathtaking vistas of high desert shrubs and mountain grasslands, combined with alpine forest and alpine tundra. The area stretches up to the top of one of the highest peaks in Colorado, Blanca Peak at 14,345 feet above sea level. It falls in the center of the longest mountain chain in the United States and borders the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.
Joining Bacon for his announcement was Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, who was more than pleased to break the conservation easement news in the place he calls home.
“Today is a historic day in the American conservation movement for America,” Salazar said. “Here in this Valley, we sit in Fort Garland, we celebrate those who want to make sure the water, which is the lifeblood of the San Luis Valley, is protected and that the wildlife, which is so much a cherished part of our planet, will have a place to be for the benefit of this generation and generations to come.”
Development would be banned on 90,000-acre Sangre de Cristo conservation easement
By Matt Hildner
The Pueblo Chieftain
FORT GARLAND — The owner of Colorado’s largest ranch announced his intention Friday to donate a 90,000-acre conservation easement to the federal government, protecting three 14,000foot peaks in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and an important wildlife corridor. Billionaire hedge fund manager Louis Bacon said the donation of the easement might serve as an example for other landowners and secure an important area for both wildlife and the public.
“It’s a big ranch. It has a lot of superlatives but it is a keystone piece of the Sangre de Cristo’s mosaic of publicly and privately protected lands,” he said.
There was no estimate available yesterday for the value of the easement, but Interior Department officials said that because the easement was donated it would not require funding from Congress.
Bacon would pay less tax on the land if the easement is approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. However, the amount of tax relief will depend on the terms of the easement and a number of other factors, said Cody Wertz, a spokesman for the ranch.
The announcement also gave some momentum to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, who has proposed a program of easements with willing landowners that would put over 500,000 acres under easement in the valley and a small part of New Mexico.
“This is a spectacular and wonderful place from an aesthetic and wildlife point of view,” the secretary said.
The easement includes three 14,000-foot peaks — Blanca Peak, Mount Lindsey and Little Bear Peak — and it will preserve the sage brush plain that frames those mountains for drivers entering the San Luis Valley on U.S. 160.
It also would protect a migration corridor for wildlife coming to and from the Wet Mountain Valley and the Front Range, an impact Gov. John Hickenlooper said magnified the importance of the easement.
“If I had a glass of champagne on my desk, which I don’t, but if I did I would toast loud and long for Louis Bacon,” he said during a telephone conference.
Should the easement be finalized it would bring almost all of the 172,000-acre ranch under easement.
Tri-State announced last week that it is now considering a number of alternatives to address electric reliability for the proposed Southern Transmission Improvements Project. Tri-State made the announcement at a public meeting it held to update stakeholders on a Tri-State-only Southern Colorado Transmission Improvements Project, after Xcel announced last year that the project was no longer in the interest of its ratepayers.
During the meeting, Tri-State announced it will consider alternatives to the previously proposed La Veta Pass line that could involve generation, transmission and energy efficiency measures. The utility will accept stakeholder comments through May 11th to inform their efforts. The meeting also generated articles from the Pueblo Chieftain and Alamosa Valley Courier that recapped some of their presentation and transmission line project alternatives.
Although we are still fighting to have Tri-State’s 2008 Load Forecast released so the public can see for itself Tri-State’s actual projected electrical need – we are encouraged that the utility committed to identifying alternatives to improve the electric reliability for San Luis Valley residents. We had previously identified several alternatives that would avoid the pristine La Veta Pass corridor and improve energy reliability – a win-win for the Valley.
We urge you to click here and let Tri-State know your thoughts about how best to improve the system.
Tri-State announced yesterday that it will hold a public meeting on the Southern Colorado Transmission Improvements Project.
The meeting will be held on April 25th from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at Ortega Middle School, 401 Victoria Avenue in Alamosa, CO.
Given the short notice, we hope everyone with an interest in the future of this project will attend and ask questions.
We’ll see you there.
Their email is included below:
Tri-State to hold Alamosa public meeting April 25
Please join Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association Inc. for an update on the Southern Colorado Transmission Improvements Project April 25th from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm at Ortega Middle School, 401 Victoria Ave in Alamosa, CO. Tri-State representatives will provide an overview presentation of the reliability issues concerning the existing transmission system serving the San Luis Valley. There will also be an opportunity for the public to provide comments and input on project alternatives for consideration on new studies focused around a Tri-State-only project.
If you have any questions, please contact Sarah Carlisle at 303-254-3396 or firstname.lastname@example.org.