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140 square miles including three 14,000 foot peaks.

The Blanca group in the Sangre de Cristos, the two highest peaks shown are part of the deal which also includes tons of forest and grasslands.

This offer to the US Government has a lot to do with two men,

Loise Bacon, hedge fund gazillionaire and

Ken Salazar, who grew up in a remote ranch in the area without running water and went on to become a great conservationist and Secretary of the Interior.

Unlike many easements which are simply tax dodges, this one is open to use by the public and it will be administered by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The offer is part of an enducement for other large landowners in the area to come forth and donate what is to be planned as the proposed Sangre de Cristo Conservation Area, a five million acre corridor covering portions of New Mexico and Colorado.

"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 Thursday. "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." Denver Post
As with most endeavors of this magnitude Ken Salazar will be long gone from office when this conservation area comes into being. Ted Turner has yet to make a commitment nor has the other large landowner. This offer goes a long way towards making it happen.

Large conservation areas seem to be the wave of the future for designating protected areas. A similar area has been created in Montana called the Rocky Mountain Front. In general lands are off limits to logging, building, mining, oil and gas, etc. but ok for recreation especially non motorized. Semi wilderness areas with existing uses grandfathered in where they occur.

Update upon making the rec list - There must be a lesson in there somewhere on how to manipulate the algorithms, not that I don't think conservation is important mind you, but I think this made the list with 5 recs and 3 comments or something.

Originally posted to ban nock at DKos on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 04:12 AM PDT.

Also republished by Good News and Colorado COmmunity.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Selling back to the American people (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    what they originally stole and then handed out for free is a neat trick.
    The only good thing about a deal like this is that the money being collected is worthless.

    "In the name of the nation, and of the dollar and of the rule of law, you and your children shall sacrifice for the good of all." Rmoney's prayer

    by hannah on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 04:29:38 AM PDT

    •  was this easement bought or is the money (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ban nock, Keith930

      referenced coming from income tax advantages of donating easements?

      •  There is some information here (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        "It'll happen over the next several years," Salazar said of the larger conservation area. "It's important that, as the conservation efforts move forward, that it be done with full cognizance of the need to honor water rights and property rights on the valley floor."

        No mention of human or animal rights there.

        "In the name of the nation, and of the dollar and of the rule of law, you and your children shall sacrifice for the good of all." Rmoney's prayer

        by hannah on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 05:06:43 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Also, Louis Bacon is a Willard (0+ / 0-)

          supporter, to the tune of $500,000.

          "In the name of the nation, and of the dollar and of the rule of law, you and your children shall sacrifice for the good of all." Rmoney's prayer

          by hannah on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 05:08:04 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  thanks for the information (3+ / 0-)

          I have been considering easements for some of my property which adjoins a preserve which has endangered plants such as Venus Flytraps but with no advantage to me, and with questionable stewardship of the existing preserve, I hesitate

          •  If you are being altruistic why not just deed the (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            wayoutinthestix, elkhunter

            land to your state with the stipulation that it never be developed or used for extractive industries. State governments have a pretty good track record of caring for their land where I come from.

            Most preserves I've seen are simply tax dodges and used as private playgrounds for the wealthy. Preserves should offer some sort of benefit other than non development for the neighbors.

            The theory that nature is permanently in balance has been largely discredited

            by ban nock on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 05:35:39 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  He is protecting it for himself (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              ban nock, BachFan

              Though I think he will now have to allow hoi polloi onto the land for hiking. He gets paid for the easement. He pays lower property taxes. Win for the rich.

              I think it is wonderful that the property is being kept from development, but I don't see that this is being particularly generous on Bacon's part.

              The GOP is the party of mammon. They mock what Jesus taught.

              by freelunch on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 06:40:21 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Not sure but I think his entire ranch is already (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                an easement and he already got tax breaks. What he is doing is giving a huge use of the land, recreation, to the general public. I'm not as enthusiastic on simply restricting development, people need places to live, the cost of housing in the US far outstrips the means of typical citizens. Homelessness is an issue exacerbated by the simple cost of housing. I'd love to see low income people living in a place of great beauty.

                The theory that nature is permanently in balance has been largely discredited

                by ban nock on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 07:11:38 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  His ranch is probably under PA490 (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  ban nock

                  basically he designates his land or most of it as open space and he pays like almost no taxes on it.  The catch is he has to maintain the status for 10 years.

                  This is your world These are your people You can live for yourself today Or help build tomorrow for everyone -8.75, -8.00

                  by DisNoir36 on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 08:14:18 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

          •  Start talks with the preserve owners, and also (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            ban nock, BachFan

            with the closest branch of the Nature Conservancy. Ask them more about how you can benefit.

          •  There are advantages to you (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            ban nock

            the first of which is tax advantages if you are paying property taxes on your property.

            Second, as you're only giving an easement they you maintain control and you can keep that control in your family or who ever owns the property after you.  

            This is your world These are your people You can live for yourself today Or help build tomorrow for everyone -8.75, -8.00

            by DisNoir36 on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 08:12:39 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  Ain't pretty (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BachFan, hannah

      but getting the land back for wilderness fairly unspoiled far outweighs the money and dealings in the long run.

      If I were a gazillionaire I'd quietly buy up as much of Southern Californian, Arizona, Sonoran, and Baja Californian desert and mountain land as possible.  Not to the point of squeezing out people who feel native- the point is help them have a place worth living in- but to contain if not reverse the essentially pointless sprawl and misuse of land by people who don't value it and its life and its creatures.

  •  Sorta OT: (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Leftcandid, ban nock, Ice Blue, BachFan

    you mentioned tax dodges, so it's sorta maybe on point:

    There was a great tax court case this month, where the court denied a charitable deduction because the donor forgot to get an appraisal on the property (which would then have to be attached to the tax return).  Even though, as the court acknowledged, the value of the property was more than what was claimed (ie, to be conservative, the taxpayer took a smaller deduction than what he could've), no deductions are allowed unless the taxpayer gets an appraisal at the same time the property is donated.

    The charitable deduction that was denied?  $18,000,000.  Ouch.

    •  I was reading online once on a forum like this (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ladybug53, johnny wurster, freerad

      and a guy was making all these claims about how great he was with giving an easement. Without commenting I started googling, he got a six figure tax break and no one can go on or even look at his land, all he did was agree not to develop it. On another forum he was bragging about how much investment money can be saved this way. His working landscape consisted of fifteen employees to care for the ranch and it's horses and stuff.

      In this case I think all of the land is already in one of those kinds of easements. The state of CO is very generous in allowing rich folks to avoid taxes.

      I think his deal with the feds is out of the goodness of his heart. It must be remembered though that the large transmission line that was to of run through the middle and went to court and was approved was suddenly deemed unneeded by the utility that wanted to run it. Ken is good at handshake deals.

      The theory that nature is permanently in balance has been largely discredited

      by ban nock on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 05:13:32 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The break is so it goes undeveloped. (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ladybug53, ban nock, freelunch, BachFan

        That's a perfectly reasonable conservation goal: property that only non-human forms of life can use.  So we're at a "agree to disagree" point, which is fine.

        In this case I think all of the land is already in one of those kinds of easements. The state of CO is very generous in allowing rich folks to avoid taxes.
        The difference is that a conservation easement must be permanent, while property tax breaks for ag land and such - like those that CO gives out like candy - are just temporary.  
        •  Easments decidedly do not give use only to non (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          johnny wurster, ichibon

          human life. They foster intergenerational wealth and the haciendas to go with them. The only good they do is to protect from development, mostly the supper rich not wishing to brush elbows with the merely rich and their tiny 50 acre ranchettes. Easements still allow dressage horses to be exercised, irrigation ponds to be stocked with trout, and private hunting to occur.

          The theory that nature is permanently in balance has been largely discredited

          by ban nock on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 05:29:33 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I'd think that use of that sort that is retained (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            ladybug53, ban nock, freerad

            by the grantor would disqualify the easement from qualifying as a charitable contribution.  In the jargon, the tax code disallows charitable deductions for fractional property interests (except in a few statutorily delineated instances); I'd think that retaining a trout pond for use by grantor would run afoul of that.

            If you have any links re: that sort of shenanigans, it'd be great; otherwise I'll track it down myself to confirm or disprove my suspicion.

            •  There are many different sorts of easments (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              johnny wurster, freerad

              to protect the view even. I'm not sure that people claim them as charitable gifts, they are simply selling part of their rights as property owners, such as the right to subdivide.

              I like the deal worked out with this easement as it might well allow people who have no where with all for private land to go and enjoy this land. We need public spaces for people to mix it up with nature.

              The theory that nature is permanently in balance has been largely discredited

              by ban nock on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 06:18:32 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  You're totally right. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            ban nock

            And I'll agree completely: that's pretty fucking scammy.

          •  Easements do decrease the value of the property (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            ban nock, johnny wurster, BachFan

            for development, so it's not just a scam.

            I have real problems with all private attempts to control how descendants use any property.

            The GOP is the party of mammon. They mock what Jesus taught.

            by freelunch on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 06:42:40 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Not entirely a scam, of course, (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              ban nock, freelunch, freerad

              but it does create private benefit for the donor of the land.  IMHO, we shouldn't give charitable deductions for partial interests of property where the donor retains significant private benefit.  

              It's a little like the similar "partial interest in paintings" scam where a donor would "gift" the use of a valuable piece of art to a museum.  The museum got the painting for a part of the year, the donor got to keep it part of the year, and the donor got a fat deduction for it.  Congress eliminated that deduction, and they should do the same w/ conservation easements where the donor retains a significant private benefit from the donated interest.

  •  The details may suck, but the result is great. (7+ / 0-)

    Looking at the Sangre De Christo Range, one can easily forget the sausage making that helps conserve it.

    Before elections have their consequences, Activism has consequences for elections.

    by Leftcandid on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 05:21:34 AM PDT

    •  Yes, my first memories (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ban nock, BachFan

      of the Sangre de Christos from 1953-56 (8-11yo) with my
      dad, hunting in the winter and fishing in the summer. We had
      a very rustic cabin in Crestone and would jeep or take horses and cruise the north side of Crestone peak.

      Those memories could make one 'want to go back to the 50's',
      but my father also told me when we were there to remember what I could because things would change.    

      •  I can't imagine, like from a different world (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BachFan, freerad

        That was 60 years ago, 60 years before that was the late 1800s, close to being the frontier.

        I tell my own kids to look carefully as I can see a day when the large herds of elk and scattered moose will be gone. Forests might well change considerably.

        The theory that nature is permanently in balance has been largely discredited

        by ban nock on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 08:57:23 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Wow! tons of forest and grassland (0+ / 0-)

    Like heavy dude! How many tons, do you know? How can I convert that into square miles or acres?

    This is (really!) great news, but this 'tons' thing is just a very tired and useless metaphor? I mean, it was sort of cute 20 years ago. Be a little more creative and descriptive, please.

    Yes, I'm a language snob, but I just want real information, especially for such great news.

  •  Thanks for diarying this, Ban Nock (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ban nock, BachFan

    I've been trying to put something together on the same subject...conservation easements...but focusing on the Jackson Hole, Wyoming area.  Those easements, as you say, are mostly tax elimination schemes that allow individuals to enjoy pristine views from their ranches without worrying about a neighbor subdividing their property, or urban development tainting the vista.

    The tax arrangements are sort of dry stuff, and I have mixed views on the topic, so I've had a hard time honing the story into a sharp message.  But there is a worthwhile diary there.

    Oregon:'s cold. But it's a damp cold.

    by Keith930 on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 07:04:47 AM PDT

    •  I too have been thinking of the subject, and so (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Keith930, BachFan, johnny wurster

      too has the Nature Conservancy. Their new head scientist and spokesman has said interesting things about preserving land of late. That we've gotten real good at it but it doesn't do us a lot of real good. I'm probably putting words in his mouth. He is into saving space close to urban centers and claims there is no wilderness. Very controversial for the worlds largest conservation org, I'll look for a link. He won some big prize and everyone is interviewing him of late.

      The theory that nature is permanently in balance has been largely discredited

      by ban nock on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 07:19:27 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I'll be traveling past Blanca on Wednesday (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ban nock, BachFan, freerad

    When i do I shall pray that some day all the People will be able to enjoy Mother Earth without regard for class and ownership.

    "Political ends as sad remains will die." - YES 'And You and I' ; -8.88, -9.54

    by US Blues on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 08:25:12 AM PDT

  •  Back in the 80's, (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ban nock, BachFan, freerad

    I climbed quite a bit in the Sangre de Cristo range.  Mostly up in the Crestone Peak/Kit Carson area, but also at Little Bear & Blanca.  It is a stunning area.

    ...someday - the armies of bitterness will all be going the same way. And they'll all walk together, and there'll be a dead terror from it. --Steinbeck

    by Seldom Seen on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 08:39:30 AM PDT

  •  My mother lives there (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Pam from Calif, ER Doc

    She's a water expert, among other things, living in the Blanca area.  I forwarded this to her, and am pasting her comments here (she's not wired into DK or other social media):

    Yes, most of this is true.  The bazillionaire is Louis, not Louise. So far only the so-called Forbes area has been designated by Bacon Moore as a conservation area, which is really, I think, pretty wonderful. There has been some speculation about areas to the south and into New Mexico, and maybe the 70,000 acre Cielo Vista ranch and the Turner holdings having been approached or contemplated, but so far as I know they're not included.  Generally, I think it's a good movement.  But I have some misgivings.

    What I fear is that such "conserving" often does not protect an area from mineral (oil and gas) exploration, with those rights often being separate, sometimes in what's known as a "split estate" between those who own and control the surface and other entities who own and control what's underground.  

    This is beginning to happen now with water, which is causing some real anguish here in the upper Rio Grande Basin.  Sixth generation farmers, descendants of the first non-native-American people, often hold very senior water rights but they are finding there is no water left for them because agricultural wells have penetrated sometimes thousands of feet into the confined and unconfined aquifer, sucking the water down like slurping Coke through a straw.  

    Even though, under the state's laws of prior appropriation, they were first to use that water, and therefore they are first in "right" to continue using that water, those laws were established before today's water-extraction technologies had been perfected, so "groundwater" is sucked out from under them, often leaving creeks, diversions, ditches, and irrigation systems high and dry.  

    There are some genuine, honest, and often painful efforts being made by water engineers and water courts to redress this injury to holders of senior water rights, creating self-managing subdistricts, deliberately fallowing tens of thousands of acres of farmland, imposing recharge requirements, curtailing and limiting well-fed sprinkler irrigation systems, and struggling to create computer models that purport to tell the truth and therefore to cure all ills and satisfy everyone.  

    Meanwhile people are really mad.  This is the driest year in all of Colorado's recorded water-tracking, and people are suffering.  Little settlements and communities dependent on surface water continue to be abandoned as the heirs to ancient water give up farming.  

    And it's worse for oil and gas, with the fight even more desperate.  I just finished winning a grant to do a hydrogeologic study in Rio Grande County because the County is receiving requests for drilling permits and it doesn't have the data or the knowledge to make thoughtful decisions.  The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (the State entity that grants permits) has approved a permit to drill right next to Old Woman Creek and San Francisco Creek -- areas which are environmentally fragile, which feed directly into the Rio Grande, and which (we know) are geologically young and mobile. The potential consequences of any accident or leakage would risk damaging water quality, riparian areas, wildlife, aquatic life, and human health, but the industry moves forward -- and its cohorts are  gleaming in purple and gold.

    Therefore, many of us suspect these grand schemes for preservation, with entities such as the Bureau of Land Management being a major lessor and promoter of oil and gas exploration in remote and often very vulnerable areas.  The Baca area around Crestone, which is part of such a preserve, continues a never ending battle to protect its water and to resist the big money of petroleum interests and oil and gas leasing. The commissioners of Huerfano County have been (we suspect) totally paid off by Shell oil, leaving the Huerfanos to fend for themselves, with now eight demands for permits to drill and frac right next to town and to people's farms and homes. I believe the upward transfer of wealth is a deliberate strategy to secure these diminishing resources for the very few, and no amount of erstwhile conservation is going to keep anything conserved for the rest of us.    

    Rosa sat, so Martin could walk, So Barack could run, so our children can fly.

    by On Puget Sound on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 08:54:48 PM PDT

    •  As I remember reading, and maybe I've got it wrong (0+ / 0-)

      but i seem to remember the well drilling folks weren't that thrilled with the way the water from this thing was to be handled.

      Because the goal is animals and conservation they'd intended to allow all the water to flow as per normal and all their water would end up going to those with senior rights. The folks that need to tap the aquifer want that water for irrigation. So as usual some might make out, others not so much. Salazar is one of those original settlers up from Old Mexico by the way.

      I was just looking at maps today and ran across Crestone. Never walked down there. Looking for a unit to hunt in for the fall. Probably will go out past the Flat top Wilderness but I've filed that unit in my memory, to the south is the Great Sand Dunes National Park. The unit runs all along the ridge for many miles north on the W side of the ridge. Someday.

      Oh, and hi to your mom. She doesn't know where there's any private land I can hunt elk on in December does she? Family is eating me out of house and home.

      The theory that nature is permanently in balance has been largely discredited

      by ban nock on Sun Jun 24, 2012 at 06:36:48 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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