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.