From shark and community funding out West, to clean water and cancer prevention collaboration: a week in review from Louis Bacon’s Moore Charitable Foundation

The Moore Charitable Foundation (MCF) and founder Louis Bacon are focused on driving conservation impact more than ever this year in our priority areas and regions. During the month of February, on our social channels and through MCF’s website we will focus on grantees in Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming, sharing news of their initiatives and conservation concerns/opportunities, and will publish “white papers” about land, water and wildlife habitat restoration in the West. As well, as always, we will continue to follow the progress of all our partners from across the country and in The Bahamas and Panama.

Here are just a few of the highlights of the past ten days:

Conejos Clean Water (Trinchera Blanca Foundation grantee) 2016 rafting trip on the Rio Grande.

Conejos Clean Water (Trinchera Blanca Foundation grantee) 2016 rafting trip on the Rio Grande. Photo (c) Conejos Clean Water

1. Two pieces of news from Colorado demonstrated how, in 2016, MCF supported local conservation and communities efforts to provide critical services, enact meaningful conservation projects and protect important natural resources. Trinidad’s Chronicle-News published that MCF local affiliate Tercio Foundation contributed almost $90,000 to non-profit organizations in the greater Stonewall and Trinidad communities; and from Fort Garland came news that affiliate The Trinchera Blanca Foundation provided more than $300,000 to local conservation and community groups, the majority of which was allocated to groups in the San Luis Valley.

The giving strategy was critically informed by staff and leadership at Tercio Ranch and Trinchera Blanca Ranch respectively. We thank our trusted leadership there for their thoughtful insights.

2. Florida International University released news that scientists have discovered what is probably a new species of hammerhead shark, prompting concerns about the species’ vulnerability and whether conservation practices in place today are widespread enough to protect them. The data that led to this definitive finding was obtained in part during a 2016 shark tagging expedition, funded by a grant from Louis Bacon’s Moore Bahamas Foundation.

Demian Chapman examines a specimen of what is believed to be an unidentified species of hammerhead shark. Credit: Florida International University

Demian Chapman examines a specimen of what is believed to be an unidentified species of hammerhead shark. Credit: Florida International University. Photo (c) FIU

We commend the entire research team from Stony Brook University, Florida International University, University of North Florida and the Field Museum of Chicago, and especially FIU lead marine research scientist Damien Chapman on their important work that is forwarding shark conservation globally.

3. We traveled to Washington D.C. for National Cancer Prevention Day on February 2nd, and participated in discussions, lectures and a town hall meeting in support of our partner Less Cancer. We were thrilled that Mae Wu, JD, Senior Attorney, Health Program of Natural Resources Defense Council was able to speak. National Cancer Prevention Day is a resolution introduced by Representative Steve Israel that highlights Less Cancer’s efforts to bring attention to cancer prevention, educating citizens about behavioral and environmental risks linked to cancer.

4. We attended this year’s first in-person meeting of the Long Island Sound Funders Collaborative in support of advancing the critical clean water mandate on the East End. Clean water, both to drink and in ponds and bays, is high on the 2017 agenda for local and state lawmakers, and we’ll look forward to exciting initiatives coming soon.

5. The Taos Ski Valley has its Grand Opening of the Blake Hotel. A major congratulations to the entire Ski Taos team on their fabulous and Herculean effort. As the Taos News eloquently published this week, the hotel is “truly a celebration of the Taos melting pot and adheres to our common environmentally friendly mindset and that of conservationist owner Louis Bacon, who bought the resort in 2013.” Bravo!

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The Case for Private Land, as Critical For Conservation

As we celebrate Public Lands Day this weekend, The Western Landowner Alliance’s Executive Director Lesli Allison highlights the need to consider the landscape as a whole and the critical role private lands play in sustaining the wildlife populations, water resources and ecosystems that that transcend ownership boundaries. Her op-ed in the Albuquerque Journal is published in full here:

For many of us, maintaining access to public lands, water and wildlife is a paramount concern. We not only desire to ensure these things are available to us today, but to guarantee they will be available to our children and all future generations.

These are not “soft” benefits. They are important to our quality of life and also to local, regional and national economies.

Over 47 million people a year in America head into the outdoors to hunt and fish. Hunting and angling are often the cornerstones of many small rural businesses. Hunters and anglers spend tens of billions of dollars annually, supporting our economy at many levels – from coffee shops and gas stations to major companies that manufacture firearms, outdoor clothing and fishing tackle.

These expenditures directly support jobs and ripple through the economy to the tune of $200 billion per year.

In New Mexico alone, approximately $665 million is gained.

At the same time, those of us who care about the opportunity to hunt, fish and enjoy wildlife into the future must first care about the welfare of the fish and wildlife themselves. While we take pride that in New Mexico more than 160,000 anglers spend $268 million a year, this high level of recreation and the resources that sustain it must be managed carefully.

A critical component of this economic juggernaut is the streams that occur on private lands.

According to the Natural Resources Conservation Service, “Nearly 70 percent of the nation’s fish and wildlife habitat is found on private lands, making conservation efforts on farms, ranches and forests crucial to many species.”

These conservation actions by landowners deliver benefits far beyond their boundaries. In addition, fish and wildlife need refugia, which in many cases is provided by private lands where public recreational pressures are often lower. These “sanctuary habitats” are places where fish can rest and lay eggs in peace and quiet, where birds can nest and deer and elk can drink water and deliver their young.

In New Mexico, streams on private land harbor some of the last populations of imperiled species, including native fish such as the Rio Grande cutthroat trout.

We need to take a “fish eye view.” At what point is recreational access more important than the species itself? Shouldn’t we seek a balance between human-facing habitat and wildlife-facing habitat? In New Mexico’s fragile stream systems, private lands play a crucial role in providing this balance.

There are ways we can solve the stream recreation challenge without undermining landowners’ good faith stewardship of streams and fisheries.

Public/private access agreements already exist in many places. Local guides earn their livelihoods leasing access from landowners and as a result bring in recreational tourists who boost New Mexico’s economy, creating jobs in our rural communities. Many landowners provide special hunting and fishing opportunities for youth, the disabled and for veterans in search of healing.

Public/private partnerships to restore streams and fisheries across public and private boundaries benefit us all equally as well as important aquatic and terrestrial species

If we are to conserve fish and wildlife populations for current and future generations, we need to consider the challenge from all perspectives and to insist that the quality of our engagement with one another remain worthy of the resources and opportunities we all want to protect. Our ability to do so will determine in large measure the world we leave our children.

Lesli Allison, is a founding member and Executive Director of the Western Landowners Alliance. She is also a founding member and most recently executive director of the Chama Peak Land Alliance. Through both organizations, Lesli has worked extensively with private landowners and multiple stakeholders to advance conservation, sustain working lands and support rural communities. 

How Three Generations of a Family Kept Their Agricultural Heritage Alive with the Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust

Since 1995, The Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust (CCALT) has partnered with landowners across Colorado to protect productive agricultural land. This work has helped agricultural families to achieve their estate planning goals, pay down debt, save for retirement, pay for long-term health care and college education, diversify and expand operations, and preserve their agricultural heritage. It has also helped to preserve the natural resources that make Colorado such a special place to live and visit.

On a recent trip to visit partners in Colorado, a topic of conversation was the importance of family land – families keeping their agricultural heritage and traditions alive through generations. The CCALT focuses exactly on this – and their work with the 19,000 acre Patterson Ranch near Kim, Colorado in Las Animas County is a success story in this remote and rugged portion of Southeastern Colorado. Here is that story, from the CCALT website.

For years, the family grappled with the challenge of estate planning and how they would transfer the family’s agriculture business from one generation to the next without facing crippling taxes and having to sell some or all of the ranch.

The 19,000 acre Patterson Ranch near Kim, Colorado represents three generations of a family keeping their agricultural heritage and traditions alive

The 19,000 acre Patterson Ranch near Kim, Colorado represents three generations of a family keeping their agricultural heritage and traditions alive. Photo (c) CCALT

The Patterson family worked with CCALT and several other conservation partners to convey a conservation easement that enabled the Patterson family to reduce their estate tax liability, generate income and preserve the entire ranch as a viable agricultural operation. The conservation project was completed in 2000 and achieved all of the goals established by the family.

After years of operating with a conservation easement, the Patterson family is still going strong, valuing the partnership with CCALT that has enabled them to continue the family’s strong agricultural heritage in Southeastern Colorado. The Pattersons occasionally reminisce on the struggles they faced when deciding whether or not conservation was the right option for their family.

“Looking back, the decision was really very simple,” said Bob and Bunny Patterson. “We wanted to remain in agriculture and we wanted to pass the ranch on to our kids and grandkids. The conservation easement allowed us to do just that, and over the past decade, not much has changed. We continue to run the ranch the same way we did before the easement and the only thing that really did change is that now we have a better peace of mind as to what the future will hold.”

CCALT is proud of the hundreds of thousands of acres that they have been able to conserve in partnership with landowners. Read more about these families, their love of the land, and their commitment to protecting Colorado’s heritage and way of life.

The Trinchera Blanca Foundation and Founder Louis Bacon are proud supporters of the CCALT.

Protecting the watersheds of San Luis Valley’s Rio Grande River: conservation of the Rio Culebra Ranch and acequia

The Rio Grande originates in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains, in the Rocky Mountain Range. It is the fourth largest river in the US, serving as a partial border between the US and Mexico and stretching 1,885 miles through Colorado, New Mexico and Texas. The first community the Rio Grande touches is that of the San Luis Valley where approximately 7,500 miles of the river contributes to the Rio Grande Basin as one of the dominant watersheds. The dry valley depends upon irrigation of major crops consisting of potatoes, barley, vegetables and alfalfa to a community that is, economically, highly dependent upon agriculture and raising livestock.

The intense irrigation and pumping of aquifers in this region by commercial farming companies has created a trickle-down affect on the rest of the communities this large river affects. Many farms in the San Luis Valley depend upon the snowfall in the mountains to replenish the Rio Grande and the surrounding groundwater. However, intense agricultural irrigation and the effects of an invasive plant species, the salt cedar (which absorbs large amounts of water, and depositing large quantities of salt) affects the Rio Grande Gorge and the White Rock Canyon of New Mexico, as well as the fragile bosque ecosystem in the floodplain of the Rio Grande Rift.

Clearly, new thinking around water is of critical import in this region. But here there is also an older, proven model of irrigation that works for both resource management and community collaboration: an acequia. A physical irrigation system of gravity chutes  – often an open ditch with dirt banks – in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado the term also describes a philosophy about water and community.  The acequia philosophy sees water as essentially communal; a resource that must be shared.

In the United States, the oldest acequias were established more than 400 years ago; and many continue to provide a primary source of water for farming and ranching ventures in areas in the Upper Rio Grande watershed.

The Trinchera Blanca Foundation, the Colorado affiliate of Louis Bacon’s Moore Charitable Foundation, has partnered with Colorado Open Lands (COL) to support its ongoing involvement with the acequia community to increase awareness of conservation options, and specifically to directly support the permanent protection of an iconic acequia-irrigated ranch.

Funding from The Trinchera Blanca Foundation will enable the permanent conservation of the Rio Culebra Ranch, located just outside of the town of San Luis, Colorado’s oldest town. The ranch protects critical viewsheds from the town and from the famous Stations of the Cross.  The designated Centennial ranch has been in the same family for over 150 years and has a rich multi-generational tradition of stewardship.

The ranch is irrigated by the San Pedro ditch, the second most senior acequia in the watershed, and one of the oldest water rights in the state of Colorado.  Consequently, conservation of this historic working ranch will keep critical senior water rights in agriculture.

The San Luis Valley’s unique acequia heritage has given rise to multiple federal designations, including the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area and the Sangre de Cristo Conservation Area. However, Colorado Open Lands and The Trinchera Blanca Foundation recognize the critical role private lands play in sustaining the Valley’s ecology and culture. Colorado Open Lands appreciates the Foundation’s partnership in providing incentives to families who wish to see their own farms and acequia communities continue to flourish.

We commend COL’s unique approach to conservation across the state and we are proud to support their efforts to protect acequia lands and communities in the San Luis Valley. Readers can learn more here.

Amplifying conservation efforts through Colorado Gives Day 2015

The emphasis on charitable giving this holiday season will gain further momentum with Colorado Gives Day, which celebrates its sixth year on December 8. The 24-hour online fundraising movement applauds philanthropy and encourages donations in support of over 1,800 non-profit organizations in Colorado. Last year, the campaign received donations from 45,000 people, generating an impressive $26.3 million. To gear up for this marathon day of giving, nonprofits will gather at the State Capitol on December 7 for a special rally to collectively celebrate the year’s achievements.

The Moore Charitable Foundation and founder Louis Bacon proudly supports the distinguished work of its Trinchera Blanca Foundation partners in Colorado. Their dedication to preserving open spaces and upholding policy to protect conservation easements is particularly admirable. Each year, Colorado Gives Day serves to commemorate all that they have accomplished. Below, we highlight the work of five of our partners as they form an integral part of this regional community.

  • Colorado Open Lands acts to carry out its long-term conservation plan for Colorado, concentrating on land, water, and heritage. Through strategic partners, leadership, and innovative conservation techniques, they help to ensure that Colorado retains its natural beauty. Their work, primarily with private landowners has facilitated the protection of more than 400,000 acres to date. Currently, COL is focused on using conservation easements and other tools to protect acequia water rights, a system that treats water as a critical community resource.
  • Colorado Coalition of Land Trusts (CCLT) also promotes land conservation, focusing particularly on public policy and education. Their protection covers almost 2 million acres of habitat, farms, ranches, and other landscapes, and they work to foster positive relations and cooperation between land trusts and governmental organizations.
  • Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust (CCALT) conserves working rural landscapes, heritage, and local families, thereby encouraging the intergenerational transfer of ranches and farms. Its broad focus on family allows it to take on many roles, with programs to help farmers perform estate planning, pay debt, save for retirement, and pay for education, among other activities.
  • Conservation Colorado, a grassroots organization with a strong culture of collaboration, envisions a sustainable future for its home state. Focusing on the people side of operations, it works to mobilize the community and elect environmentally-conscious policy makers. Some of their successes include protection of more than 3 million acres of wilderness, passing 130 distinct conservation bills at the state legislature, and increasing the statewide renewable energy standard by 30%.
  • Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust (RiGHT) advocates sustainability in agriculture throughout the entire San Luis Valley. Their conservation techniques serve to sustain the vitality of Colorado’s agricultural heritage and economy. They hope to inspire a culture of conservation in the area, and they do so by supporting ranches and farms, water sources, and wildlife habitat and have succeeded in protecting more than 21,000 of these acres.

This Colorado Gives Day, the amplified attention surrounding our partners’ work will raise awareness about the importance of sustainability in Colorado and bring new supporters to the community. Visit https://www.coloradogives.org/COGIVESDAY to learn how you can contribute to preserving open spaces and wildlife habitat in Colorado, and use #COGivesDay on social media to spread the word.