Billionaire hedge-funder Louis Bacon is donating a conservation easement on 90,000 acres bordering the San Luis Valley, which will provide the foundation for the proposed new Sangre de Cristo Conservation Area that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is in the process of establishing.
“This is the largest single conservation easement ever donated to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and it happens to be in one of the most beautiful places in the country, the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and the San Luis Valley,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a conference call with reporters Friday.
Salazar would know. He grew up there. The area is home to three peaks topping 14,000 feet.
Bacon, a New York-based advocate of landscape and wildlife conservation, intends to put the conservation easement on the Blanca Peak side of the 171,400-acre Trinchera Ranch, which he bought from the Forbes family for $175 million in 2007. Bacon, who also spends time skiing in Aspen, is the founder, chairman and principal investment manager of Moore Capital Management.
It is the largest privately owned ranch in Colorado and was originally part of a Spanish land grant made in 1843. Other parts of Trinchera Ranch are protected by an easement administered by Colorado Open Lands.
“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, in the breathtaking Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range,” Bacon said.
The easement is contingent on the Department of Interior moving forward with the Sangre de Cristo Conservation Area effort.
Forbes magazine ranks Bacon as the 312th richest American with a $1.4 billion estimated net worth.
He will receive a tax break should the easement go through but how much was unclear at press time.
Bacon’s ranch is a hunter’s paradise with breathtaking vistas of high desert shrubs and mountain grasslands, combined with alpine forest and alpine tundra. It stretches to the top of 14,345-foot Blanca Peak. It falls in the center of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range, the longest mountain chain in the United States, and borders the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.
Under President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative, the Department of Interior has spearheaded a series of voluntary partnerships with landowners to conserve rural landscapes. Initiatives include the Flint Hills Legacy Conservation Area in Kansas, the Dakota Grassland Conservation Area of South Dakota and North Dakota and the Rocky Mountain Front Conservation Area in Montana.