Interior preps largest-ever federal easement in N.M., Colo.
Written byBRUCE FINLEY, Denver Post/Greenwire
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is expected to announce an agreement with a billionaire New York hedge-fund manager and conservationist for an easement to protect 90,000 acres of land in New Mexico and Colorado from future development.
The proposed Sangre de Cristo Conservation Area will be the largest easement the federal government has secured. And it will be largest tract of land that the current administration has protected.
Land owned by Louis Bacon includes grasslands, forests and tundra that run between Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve and La Veta Pass. With an easement, the land remains with private owners, but it limits hunting and recreational activities. Land on Bacon's two ranches in the area spans 172,000 acres altogether. Much of the land is already protected by a state conservation easement.
"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 yesterday.
"Our economy is going to come back. It is going to be strong," he said. But beyond jobs and commerce, "it is also important that we're growing smartly, and one way to do that is to make sure we're protecting places for wildlife."