Rabbitbrush Rambler: Conservation on a landscape scale

Contrary to what we might suppose from reading gossip magazines and political news, there really are some wealthy people who value things such as science and the environment. Such people use their money, energy, and intelligence for remedying problems instead of creating them.

We could use more individuals of that sort, and we have one right here, although his office happens to be in New York City. He is a billionaire hedge-fund manager who is actively participating in large-scale conservation efforts in the San Luis Valley and in several other places beyond our own region.    

Louis Moore Bacon has earned a National Audubon Society award in recognition of his efforts, but that is just a small part of his story. Take a look at his website for an introduction to Bacon and his Moore Charitable Foundation.

There you will find his blogs which tell about his project in North Carolina that is addressing toxic pollution caused by intensive animal feeding. Another is seashore protection. In northern New Mexico, where he acquired Taos Ski Valley, forest health is on tap for attention. He supports the Rio Grande Water Fund. He supports the Sangre de Cristo Conservation Area.

When Bacon purchased Forbes interests in Blanca Trinchera Ranch on the east side of the San Luis Valley, he donated a conservation easement of 76,000 acres to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Later he increased the easement to a total of 166,000 acres that never can be developed and will protect wildlife.

In the Valley we often hear about conservation easements, which are generously created on rural farms and ranches with property boundaries that permanently protect specific lands and resources in their scattered parcels. Bacon’s easement differs by being on a landscape scale that is part of the large natural wildlife corridor in the Sangre de Cristo Range, without the spatial gaps that usually occur elsewhere.

Consider that Bacon’s property links with Rio Grande National Forest land. Just around the corner lies Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, and on the other side of the range is San Isabel National Forest.  In addition, I have read recently about a proposal to protect public land in the Sangre de Cristo Creek area.

All in all, these lands provide increasingly rare, natural conditions for wildlife. Too often, human activities such as subdivisions and cities, industries and highways alter or completely block wildlife migration and have other adverse impacts.

(I am resisting the urge to express expletives about Trump’s proposal of an obscene 30-foot-high border wall, which, if it were constructed, would block plants and wildlife from migration. Granted, birds could fly over a wall, insects could crawl up it, and marine life could move around it, but what about other parts of formerly natural ecosystems? As Robert Frost was saying in his poem “Mending Wall,” before I built a wall I would want to know what I was walling in and what I was walling out.)

Now, taking a leap in another direction, ASU’s Fort Massachusetts Field School will be conducted again this summer on Bacon’s property. This program again will be advancing historical archaeology, promoting ASU’s educational program, and receiving incidental benefits from the ranch’s resources.

Such activities are in harmony with the objectives of Bacon’s foundation, which are sustainable economic activity, social responsibility, and transparency. We could use more billionaires like him.