Hedge-fund manager and renowned conservationist Louis Bacon plans to build a large sawmill in the San Luis Valley to help process timber harvested from his Trinchera Blanca Ranch, the largest contiguous ranch in Colorado.
The 172,000-acre ranch, with 167,000 acres locked in a conservation easement donated to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, harvests about 2.5 million board feet of timber every year. It needs to harvest more to keep the forests healthy and growing.
“Large portions of Colorado’s forests are hurting due to prolonged drought, bug infestations and poor historic forest management practices – the same issues we are facing on the ranch,” said Ty Ryland, the manager of the Trinchera Blanca Ranch, in a statement. “The forest-health issues on the Ranch, along with those of the region, are pushing us to act and the best solution is to sustainably manage our forests and build this sawmill to handle the volume.”
The proposed sawmill would be set up near the town of Blanca in Costilla County and could employ 40 to 70 workers. It could process 20 million board-feet of timber a year, about half of that coming from the ranch. The timber and processed construction-ready lumber would meet the requirements of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative.
The proposed sawmill would help Bacon’s team elevate its active forestry management practices, which reduces the threat of catastrophic wildfire by thinning canopies that have grown dense under years of fire-suppression efforts.