Land Trust acquires another square on its ‘conservation checkerboard’ | SierraSun.com

Land Trust acquires another square on its ‘conservation checkerboard’

Fresh Groomed Snow sits on the summit at Lake Tahoe

Northstar California donated a 56-acre conservation easement located in the western portion of their land holdings to the Truckee Donner Land Trust to satisfy requirements set by the county.

The conditions were part of the terms of Northstar's Promised Land Express mountain improvements.

"We look at our work as one acre at a time, and this is more acreage," said Truckee Donner Land Trust Executive Director Perry Norris.

The land trust has been acquiring land for conservation, piece by piece, in the Martis Valley for years. The organization calls it the "conservation checkerboard."

"The easement is really one of many phases of hundreds of acres that the land trust is, or will be the grantee of, an easement from Northstar," Norris said. "This is the result of litigation a decade ago between MAP (Mountain Area Preservation), Sierra Watch and the developers."

Norris said that when Northstar was trying to expand in 2005, environmental groups sued. The result, he said, was a comprehensive habitat management plan, which included setting aside specific acreages for conservation.

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"The easement itself is kind of on a ski run, but the forested condition provides habitat to deer … there have been studies that say if you can just keep natural land in its natural state, that is the biggest contributor to clean water," Norris said.

While the 56-acre parcel may only be one square on a checkerboard, he said the Martis Valley is valuable conservation space because in the meadow system there is a large aquifer that provides clean water to the Truckee River.

"It basically acts as a huge reservoir," he said.

Another reason for protecting land in the Martis Valley, Norris said, is for the wildlife.

"It has really important wildlife characteristics," he said. "It's a gateway for the Loyalton deer, who migrate through there."

According to a statement from the land trust, the 56-acre easement complements the 233-acre easement on the east side of State Route 267, as well as the 37-acre easement near the Village at Northstar.

"We are thrilled the Truckee Donner Land Trust can hold these conservation easements and retain these lands in perpetuity for natural resource values," said Northstar Vice President and General Manager Nadia Guerriero, in a statement.

"We've worked diligently with the Land Trust for years to ensure that conservation priorities are secured. The Land Trust continues to be an instrumental environmental partner and huge asset to the Truckee region."

Before donating the land, Northstar treated it for wildfire fuel reduction and wildlife enhancement, in addition to providing stewardship funds, according to a statement from the TDLT. Those funds help contribute to trail building and maintenance, Norris said.

"Northstar has been a great partner to the Land Trust on so many initiatives, not only with the conservation easements protecting the land around Lookout Mountain and the new Promised Land Express lift, but also in facilitating much appreciated grant funding from Vail Resorts," TDLT Stewardship Director John Svahn said in a statement.

"As the days lengthen and we transition from skiing to hiking season, we're delighted to open trail connectivity from Waddle Ranch Preserve to Northstar with our new Elizabethtown Trail, which has already proven popular with Northstar visitors."

Amanda Rhoades is a news, environment and business reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at arhoades@sierrasun.com or 530-550-2653. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @akrhoades.