12:18pm

Fri September 14, 2012
Environment

Salazar Announces Sweeping Wildlife Conservation Agreement

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has announced a deal that will permanently protect nearly 170,000 acres of land in southern Colorado’s San Luis Valley.

Once completed, the Sangre de Cristo Conservation Area will encompass about 265 square miles of protected land; from the eastern range lands of the San Luis Valley to the steep slopes of the namesake ‘blood of Christ’ mountains. 

It’s also the childhood home of Ken Salazar, who announced the deal Friday in the sunny atrium of the new Colorado History museum.

"With this announcement today, the southern Rockies really joins the league of the greatest landscapes of America," Salazar said.

The new wildlife refuge and the Sangre de Cristo Conservation area is largely possible thanks to conservationist and billionaire hedge fund manager Louis Bacon, who owns Colorado’s largest private holding, the Trinchera Ranch.  He’s placing almost all of its 81,000 acres in a conservation easement, and has similar plans for his Blanca Ranch nearby. 

Unlike many national wildlife refuges, this one won’t be open to the public, but the public will still benefit, according to Mr. Bacon, who made a rare public appearance alongside Sec. Salazar and others at the Friday event.

"With these donations, it does create a contiguous mosaic of privately held and publicly protected lands that will stay in perpetuity, and creating one of the longest wildlife corridors in America," Bacon said.

The move is the latest example of a new conservation strategy being promoted by the Obama Administration with cooperation from private landowners.  Salazar Friday hailed similar projects on the Flint Hills grasslands in Kansas, and the Crown of the Continent region in northwestern Montana.  

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