Leaving a legacy of land | SierraSun.com

Leaving a legacy of land

Jenny Goldsmith and David Bunker
Sierra Sun

David Bunker/Sierra Sun File PhotoAttilio Genasci, believed to be the oldest working rancher in California, passed away in January. He is credited with spearheading land conservation in the Sierra Valley. He was 98.

The man who had seen tens of thousands of Sierra Valley sunsets, and in his 90s turned his love of that landscape into a tireless effort to preserve ranches in California’s largest alpine valley, died in January.

Attilio Genasci, believed to be California’s oldest working rancher, is being remembered as a conservation visionary. And those that knew him say that Genasci’s work will be seen in the future of the Sierra Valley wedged between the fast-growing areas of Truckee and Reno.

Genasci’s work as an elder statesman promoting land conservation have helped permanently protect more than 30,000 acres of Sierra Valley land from development.

“At a time in the Sierra Valley when no one had considered conservation funding as an option, Attilio helped bring that to his community to maintain the ranching culture and society of the Sierra Valley,” said Steve Frisch, president of the Sierra Business Council. “He was a pathfinder, a risk taker and somebody that was able to articulate the values of land ethics.”

In 2004, on his 95th birthday, Genasci became one of the first ranchers in the Sierra Valley to sign a conservation easement, ensuring his property north of Truckee would remain a ranch for centuries to come despite development pressures.

Frisch worked directly with Genasci on the conservation easement to assure no homes will sprout up on the hay farm and cattle ranch his family has owned for nearly 100 years.

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“At the age of 97, I saw him out on his ranch cutting hay and I remember asking him, ‘don’t you get tired?’ and he said ‘how could I get tired; shouldn’t you do what you love your entire life,'” Frisch said. “He was a personal inspiration to me and I will remember him forever.”

Genasci spent his entire life raising cattle on the 500-acre ranch that rambles down to the floor of the Sierra Valley. He graduated in 1931 from the University of Nevada, Reno, and served on the Lassen Production and Credit Association board of directors and the Sierra Valley Water Co.

“He had an unbelievable ability and creativity in solving problems around the ranch,” said his son John Genasci. “In my prime I’d be home hauling bails, but no matter how hard I worked he would keep one step ahead.”

Genasci brought the same tireless work ethic to his land preservation efforts that kept him feeding cattle on his ranch into his late 90s.

Genasci’s efforts earned him a lifetime achievement award from the Truckee-based Sierra Business Council.

The memory of his wife, Angie, standing next to the ranchhouse window looking out at the ranchland that stretched undeveloped for miles, was always the answer he gave to those who asked him why he signed a conservation easement.

“This is my church. This is my cathedral,” Genasci, in a 2004 interview with the Sierra Sun, recalled his wife saying.

Later, Genasci would spread his wife’s ashes on the valley floor behind the ranchhouse ” an act that redoubled his belief in the land as sacred.

“Farming is a way of life, you have to love it … I hope I die out here with my boots on, working on the ranch,” Genasci said at age 97, in an interview recorded on the Web site http://www.savingthesierra.org. “I think we have a natural wonder here that I’ll do my best to preserve.”