U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228
For Immediate Release
December 4, 2012
Blake Androff (DOI) 202-208-6416
Steve Segin (FWS) 303-236-4578
Cody Wertz (Trinchera Blanca Ranch) 303-518-2112
AMERICA’S GREAT OUTDOORS:
Secretary Salazar and Louis Bacon Finalize Historic Agreement to Protect Nearly 170,000 Acres as part of new Sangre de Cristo Conservation Area
Conservationist signs 90,000 acre conservation easement to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
FT. GARLAND, CO –The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) and Blanca Ranch Holdings, LLC today entered into a historic agreement to place 90,000 acres of land in Colorado’s San Luis Valley into a perpetual conservation easement. Louis Bacon, noted conservationist and principal owner of Blanca Ranch, made today’s announcement in partnership with Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and the Service.
The Blanca Ranch easement will build upon Mr. Bacon’s Trinchera Ranch easement finalized earlier this year and will form a key part of the newly-established Sangre de Cristo Conservation Area (SCCA). Together, the 170,000 acre area creates one of the longest protected wildlife corridors in the world and stands as the largest donated conservation easement held by the Service.
“Today’s announcement embodies a new era of conservation – one where private landowners, the local community and the government work hand-in-hand to preserve treasured areas on a truly landscape scale,” said Secretary Salazar. “Mr. Bacon’s long-term vision for this spectacular property will help protect the natural and wildlife resources that are so important to Colorado’s economy and way of life.”
“It is truly an honor and privilege to accept the largest easement donation in the history of the Service,” said Steve Guertin, deputy director of policy for the Service, who traveled on behalf of Secretary Salazar to the San Luis Valley to join Bacon in completing the easement for the SCCA. “Mr. Bacon’s generosity will protect this pristine land linking together a diverse mosaic of public and private lands, creating a landscape corridor for fish and wildlife unlike any place in the world.”
“Signing the conservation easement for Blanca marks a meaningful milestone for me and the many individuals and organizations who helped make this a reality,” stated Bacon. “This contribution to conservation in Colorado is important as it has enabled the Blanca and Trinchera ranches to help form one of the longest protected wildlife corridors in the nation. Perhaps, more importantly, it symbolizes our belief that the land, in the words of Aldo Leopold, ‘is a community to which we belong,’ rather than a commodity,” he said. “ I am honored to have a role in preserving this land, and thankful for the extraordinary work and efforts of everyone involved, including the State of Colorado, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Department of the Interior, and most importantly, Secretary Ken Salazar."
The Trinchera and Blanca Ranches form the largest contiguous, privately owned ranch in Colorado and features breathtaking vistas of high desert shrubs and mountain grasslands, combined with alpine forest and alpine tundra. The area includes three peaks above fourteen thousand feet and 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 Sangre de Cristo mountain range, the longest mountain chain in the United States, and borders the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness near Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.
Mr. Bacon first announced his intent to donate a conservation easement on the Blanca Ranch during a ceremony in Fort Garland in June with Secretary Salazar and Service Director Dan Ashe.
“This is the final piece of the puzzle that ensures this incredible land will be protected for generations to come,” Senator Mark Udall said. “I remain thankful for Mr. Bacon’s donation of his conservation easements and the unique partnership he forged with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and a nonprofit land trust to conserve one of the most pristine private landholdings in the southern Rockies. The Sangre de Cristo Conservation Area will ensure that this scenic gem will continue to provide abundant wildlife and clean water for future Coloradans to enjoy.”
“This agreement will preserve one of Colorado’s most breathtaking and scenic landscapes – including iconic Blanca Peak,” Senator Michael Bennet said. “Conservation of our land and our precious resources is a fundamental part of what it is to live in the West. I am grateful to Mr. Bacon for his collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to help preserve the heritage of this land in its undeveloped state.”
Under President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors program to establish a 21st century conservation and outdoor recreation agenda, the Interior Department has spearheaded a series of voluntary partnerships with landowners to conserve rural landscapes while ensuring that ranching, farming and other traditional ways of life remain strong. Conservation easements are only acquired from willing landowners.
These initiatives include new units of the National Wildlife Refuge System, such as the Flint Hills Legacy Conservation Area in Kansas, the Dakota Grassland Conservation Area of South Dakota and North Dakota, the Rocky Mountain Front Conservation Area in Montana, and the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area in Florida.
For more information about the Service’s partnership work in the San Luis Valley or the Sangre de Cristo Conservation Area, please visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Mountain-Prairie’s homepage at: http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/.
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service.
For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/. Connect with our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/USFWSMountainPrairie, follow our tweets at http://twitter.com/USFWSMtnPrairie, watch our YouTube Channel at http://www.youtube.com/usfws and download photos from our Flickr page at http://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwsmtnprairie/
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