Conservation groups under contract to purchase Frog Lake | SierraSun.com

Conservation groups under contract to purchase Frog Lake

The Trust for Public Land, the Truckee Donner Land Trust, and The Nature Conservancy — working together as part of the Northern Sierra Partnership — announced it's under contract to purchase nearly 3,000 acres of land, including Frog Lake.

A trio of conservation groups announced this week a contract to purchase 2,914 acres in the upper watershed of the Truckee River.

The Trust for Public Land, the Truckee Donner Land Trust, and The Nature Conservancy — working together as part of the Northern Sierra Partnership — are under contract, according to a release from Truckee Donner Land Trust, to complete the acquisition from a private owner and Sierra Pacific Industries by the end of February 2020.

"The entire acquisition is important for habitat, for recreation, and it's important for improved land management," said Perry Norris, executive director of the Truckee Donner Land Trust.

"Frog Lake is definitely the most spectacular part of the acquisition. It's really important in terms of conservation and the connectivity to fill in the Sierra Nevada checkerboard that we're close to completing between Interstate 80 and Independence Lake."

The acquisition will include Frog Lake, Red Mountain, and the ridges north and south of Carpenter Valley. The acquisition will involve two separate transactions, which include purchasing 2,234 acres surrounding the Carpenter Valley from Sierra Pacific Industries and 680 acres surrounding Frog Lake from the Smith family, which has owned the land since the 1930s.

"They are very concerned about the future fate of the property," said Norris. "I think they've turned down probably more lucrative offers to sell the property to a conservation organization."

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'DREAM COME TRUE'

The acquisition marks the next step in the decades-long effort to protect and connect the wild landscapes of the northern Sierra Nevada.

"The opportunity to conserve these lands is a dream come true for so many," said Markley Bavinger, Sierra program manager for The Trust for Public Land in a statement. "This acquisition is the last big piece in the conservation puzzle east of the Sierra Crest and north of Truckee."

If successful, the land acquisition will significantly reduce the fragmentation of wildlife habitat north of Truckee, according to the release, and create new opportunities for hiking and backcountry skiing through this stunning landscape, including out to Frog Lake.

The acquisition also includes mixed conifer forests, aspen groves and freshwater creeks, which provide vital habitat for wildlife, including black bear, wolverine, Pacific marten, mountain lion and northern goshawk.

"Habitat fragmentation is a critical threat to the Sierra's iconic wildlife species," said David Edelson, Sierra Nevada program director for The Nature Conservancy in a statement. "This acquisition will help to knit together a fragmented landscape, protecting our upper watersheds and making them more resilient to climate change."

FOR THE PUBLIC

Plans also include hiking trails linking Castle Peak and Truckee to Independence Lake, and expanded visitor access to the area. The Truckee Donner Land Trust also plans on building a small network of backcountry huts.

"Acquiring Frog Lake and the surrounding properties is not only a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for conservation – it also opens up an entirely new area to the public," said Norris in a statement. "By creating new trails and linking existing routes, we can open up new landscapes and opportunities for hiking, biking, equestrians and backcountry skiing."

The total budget for the project, according to the release, is $15 million, of which $10.9 million is for the acquisitions and $4.1 million for recreational improvements and stewardship. The partners hope to meet this ambitious goal by securing $8 million in grants from state and federal agencies and raising $7 million from private donors.

"We have a big fundraising challenge ahead of us for sure," said Norris. "But I think this project is so attractive for so many reasons that the money will follow."

Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at jscacco@sierrasun.com.