Venturing into the Sangre de Cristo

This blog post originally appeared on our Rockies Expeditions blog on June 11th. Our 2013 Spine of the Rockies Expedition is investigating Large Landscape Conservation through methods of visual and social media while connecting to the Rocky Mountain Region’s strong ties to outdoor recreation and wild spaces. For more on the expedition, visit: www.RockiesExpeditions.org

Starting Thursday, June 13th, we will begin traversing 100 miles of the Sangre de Cristo (Blood of Christ) Mountains in southern Colorado. The mountains border the eastern edge of the San Luis Valley, a productive agricultural region with a rich heritage of farming and ranching. The Sangres Range in Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico boasts 10 peaks over 14,000 feet tall and supports a wide range of recreational activities including hiking, fishing, climbing, and skiing. In addition to their recreational values, the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and San Luis Valley are home to an impressive array of ecosystems from wetlands and grasslands at the valley floor to lush forests and alpine tundra.

During our travels through the Sangre de Cristo and San Luis Valley, we will explore the land management practices that have led to the creation of the Sangre de Cristo Conservation Area and continue to shape the landscape into the future. Because of the many different agencies, individuals, and organizations that own land in the area, conservation in the San Luis Valley requires extensive public and private sector cooperation.

The Medano Zepata Ranch, which is managed by the Nature Conservancy, encompasses 103,000 acres adjacent to the Great Sand Dunes National Park and is home large herds of elk and bison. In the fall of 2013, Louis Bacon, a hedge fund manager and land owner, donated a 77,000 acre conservation easement of his Trinchera Ranch to the Fish and Wildlife Service linking together 170,000 acres of protected land and formally establishing the Sangre de Cristo Conservation Area in the San Luis Valley. These privately held lands, combined with the extensive National Park Service, BLM, and Forest Service lands in the regions, now comprise an impressive effort to conserve ecosystems and wildlife corridors in Southern Colorado, the Sangre de Cristo Conservation Area.

Images ¬©Stephen G. Weaver of the Colorado College Geology Department. The Rockies Project appreciates Steve’s support.¬†

Written by Halsey Landon

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