A wealthy hedge fund manager has set a record, donating 170,000 acres of prime wilderness land in Colorado’s pristine Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, making it the largest donation to the agency.
Avid conservationist Louis Moore Bacon, 56, CEO and founder of Moore Capital Management, which is one of the largest hedge funds in the world, donated to the wildlife agency most of his 81,400-acre Trinchera Ranch Saturday, Sept. 15, adding to a previous 90,000 acre donation from his adjoining Blanca Ranch.
“We are too quickly losing important landscapes in this country to development—and I worry that if we do not act to protect them now, future generations will grow up in a profoundly different world,” Bacon said in a statement announcing the donation.
The combined Trinchera Blanca Ranch represents the largest contiguous, privately owned ranch in Colorado stretching to the top of one of the highest peaks in the state, Blanca Peak at 14,345 feet above sea level.
The ranch lies halfway between Denver and Santa Fe in the center of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range, the longest mountain chain in the United States, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service. It shares a border with Sangre de Cristo Wilderness near Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is under the jurisdiction of the Department of Interior and Secretary Ken Salazar commended Bacon for his dedication to the environment and generosity.
“Following in the footsteps of our greatest conservationists, Louis Bacon’s generosity and passion for the great outdoors is helping us to establish an extraordinary conservation area in one of our nation’s most beautiful places,” Salazar said in a statement.
Salazar announced the formal establishment of a Sangre de Cristo Conservation Area making it the 558th unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS).
“This newest treasure in our National Wildlife Refuge System links together a diverse mosaic of public and private lands, protects working landscapes and water quality, and creates a landscape corridor for fish and wildlife unlike any place in the world,” Salazar said.
Wildlife Refuges Prosper
According to the wildlife agency’s website, the NWRS protects a network of habitats for a range of animals, including 700 species of birds, 22 species of mammals, and over 1,000 species of fish. It allows animals to traverse their traditional migratory paths without too much disruption.
The NWRS may be a contradiction in terms, for the NWRS system encourages recreational activities like hunting and fishing.
Those activities are controlled, however, and bring in economic benefits, significant at a time of funding cuts, exacerbated by the threat of the 8 or 9 percent cuts across federal services should sequestration be enacted January.
“Hunting, fishing, and wildlife watching are part of our national heritage, and the trip and equipment-related spending of participants’ forms significant support for local economies across the country,” Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe said in a statement last month.
The statement was announcing an uptick in the numbers of visitors to wildlife refuges across 28 states.
The data was compiled by the National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife, which has been conducted annually since 1955. The survey showed that hunters and anglers plus wildlife watchers spent $145 billion last year on related gear and trips. Included in that amount were fees like licenses, tags, and land leasing or ownership.
“These survey results are good news for the small businesses and rural communities who depend on wildlife-related tourism, and it shows an encouraging increase in personal investment of citizens in the future of wildlife and wild places,” said Ashe.
The Sangre de Cristo donation is not Louis M. Bacon’s only conservation project. He founded The Moore Charitable Foundation (MCF), which provides financial support to nonprofit organizations dedicated to protecting wildlife habitats and improving water systems.
According to his blog, he has also helped protect environmentally sensitive areas in New York, North Carolina, and the Bahamas.
Bacon was in the headlines last month for his announcement that he would return around $2 billion to his investors. He cited the unpredictability of the markets, particularly Europe, as the reason, Stratfor Global Intelligence reported.
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