Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet released the following statement on the importance of conservation and tourism to Colorado's economy in connection with the creation of six new wildlife refuge units across the country, including the Sangre de Cristo Conservation Area in the San Luis Valley. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar attended events today at the Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge in Florida to celebrate the new wildlife refuges.
"Colorado is home to some of the most beautiful and breathtaking landscapes in the country," Bennet said. "The newly-created Sangre de Cristo Conservation Area, along with other public lands in the area, will allow Coloradans and visitors to enjoy these vistas and areas for years to come -- whether it is for hiking, fishing, hunting, or just time for solace. Our lands are one of the reasons many of us have come to Colorado. They also bring in valuable tourism revenue that is critical to our state's economy. Secretary Salazar has done laudable work focusing on conservation to help preserve the heritage of these lands in their undeveloped states."
In June, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and private land owner Louis Bacon came to an agreement to establish a conservation easement that protects nearly 90,000 acres of land for landscape and wildlife conservation purposes in the San Luis Valley. The agreement is the largest conservation easement the Fish and Wildlife Service has enacted in the nation.
During the markup of the 2012 Farm Bill in the Senate Agriculture Committee, Bennet secured a provision in the bill to provide flexibility that will allow more land owners and producers to use conservation easements to preserve their land's agricultural heritage and open space. He has also introduced two amendments to further enhance the conservation easement programs. The Farm Bill was passed in the Senate last year, but the House never took action.