ENVIRONMENT & CONSERVATION
“Preservation, not profit, takes precedence at Big Horn Mine in the San Gabriels; The mine, perched on Mt. Baden-Powell, still holds an estimated 262,000 ounces of gold. It’s also a refuge for wildlife — and soon it will be transferred to the U.S. Forest Service.” By Louis Sahagun. Los Angeles Times. October 22, 2011. The Big Horn Mine, perched on a mountainside overlooking the headwaters of the San Gabriel River, still holds an estimated 262,000 ounces of gold in its quartz bedrock. At current prices, that haul would be worth more than $430 million. The wild country surrounding the mine, framed by alpine peaks and watered by snowmelt running through wrinkled canyons and ancient pine forests, is a refuge for bears, mountain lions and endangered Nelson’s bighorn sheep. Within a few days, preservation will trump economics when the 277-acre parcel is handed over to the public. The transfer of title to the U.S. Forest Service will cap six years of arduous negotiations by the nonprofit Wilderness Land Trust, which acquires unprotected private land and returns it to the people. And, trust president Reid Haughey reported with a hint of satisfaction, taxpayers got this slice of paradise for a bargain price: $2 million. “At 277 acres, this is a relatively small transaction,” he said, standing knee-deep in sage and prickly yuccas on a promontory near the mine’s long-abandoned ore mill. “But the value of adding it to the surrounding wilderness for future generations is significant.” The mine on the eastern flank of 9,399-foot Mt. Baden-Powell was first prospected in 1859. In its heyday in the 1930s, Big Horn Mine supported a community of cabins, machine shops and a post office serving the 30 workers who operated its steam-powered rock crushers and trucked ore down the mountain for processing. Permits to mine gold were valid until just a few years before the land trust — with $125,000 in private donations and a long-term loan of $825,000 — bought the property from a private mining company in 2007. It was ultimately sold to the Forest Service for $2 million. “We moved quickly to prevent the land from being marketed for its mineral resources and potential as a mountain retreat,” Haughey said. “When we bought the mine, gold was selling for $350 an ounce. Today, it sells for about five times that much.”
“Record $20 Million Gift to Help Finish the High Line Park.” By Lisa W. Foderero. New York Times. October 26, 2011. Many visitors to the High Line, the popular park that wends above street level on the West Side of Manhattan, stop at its northern terminus and peer wistfully through a chain-link fence at the as-yet unreclaimed half-mile segment to the north. Until this week, the nonprofit conservancy that operates the High Line still needed to raise $85 million to finish the park and maintain it. On Wednesday night, the conservancy took a major step toward that goal when Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced a $20 million gift to the High Line from the Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation. The gift, which will help build up the park’s endowment and pay for the design of the last section, is the single largest donation ever made to a New York City park, according to city officials. It follows two previous donations totaling $15 million to the High Line from Barry Diller, chairman of IAC and Expedia, and his wife, the designer Diane von FurstenbergThe High Line is an unusual public-private partnership. The city paid most of the construction costs of the first two sections (the second opened earlier this year), which together run from Gansevoort to 30th Streets. But Friends of the High Line, the conservancy that rallied to save the railway from demolition and raised money for its transformation into a park, assumed full responsibility for the cost of the operations from the start. With three million annual visitors, 10 times what the founders of the conservancy initially envisioned, wear and tear, as well as educational programming, is a constant challenge for the 60-member staff. Annual operating costs for the park come to $3 million.