Nevada City conservation group assessing Donner Summit |

Nevada City conservation group assessing Donner Summit

TRUCKEE, Calif. and#8212; A western Nevada County conservation group is using what it learned in the past in preserving Martis Valley to coordinate a similar assessment of Donner Summit.

Sierra Watch, of Nevada City, recently devised a document and#8212; Donner Summit Conservation Priorities and#8212; which outlines the areas and items of value for conservation up on the crest.

and#8220;We looked at some existing data on what is really of value on Donner Summit, and the answer, we think, is clear and#8212; every acre is valuable,and#8221; said Tom Mooers, executive director of Sierra Watch.

The document surveys items from the watershed value of the summit at the headwaters of the south fork of the Yuba River and north fork of the American River to habitat values in the area, compiling it all into one location, Mooers said.

It identifies old growth forest stands, 100 species of birds, 115 species of butterflies and important high mountain meadows.

and#8220;We think this is a real positive step in helping shape the future of the region,and#8221; Mooers said.

A similar study put together early this decade by many of the same experts was created when the Martis Valley Community Plan proposed extensive development on both sides of California Highway 267, Mooers said. The Martis Valley Community Plan was approved in 2003.

The Donner Summit document comes into a similar situation, with development proposed on the roughly 3,000-acre Royal Gorge property that could include 950 new residential units.

and#8220;Weand#8217;re hard pressed to think of a responsible, viable way to develop the Royal Gorge property,and#8221; Mooers said.

Tamara Lieberman, acting chair of the Donner Summit Area Association, said the Donner Summit Conservation Priorities document will help guide the associationand#8217;s efforts.

and#8220;I think itand#8217;s really important they did this study to show all the native species and to recognize the sources of water and#8212; to have it all down together in one spot,and#8221; Lieberman said. and#8220;I hope the counties (Nevada County and Placer County) use this as well.and#8221;

Perry Norris, executive director of the Truckee Donner Land Trust, agreed that Donner Summit is an important part of the Sierra Nevada.

and#8220;Itand#8217;s a truly iconic and important landscape,and#8221; Norris said. and#8220;From the land trust perspective we feel it requires further research and study. We have to understand it acre-by-acre.and#8221;

John Eaton, president of the Mountain Area Preservation Foundation, said the Sierra Watch document could be improved.

and#8220;It hasnand#8217;t been evaluated by others and it needs to be more comprehensive, but itand#8217;s a good start,and#8221; Eaton said. and#8220;We need to represent the needs and interests of everybody up there.and#8221;

Recently, the Mountain Area Preservation Foundation has worked with the South Yuba River Citizens League, Serene Lakes Property Owners Association, Sierra Watch, the Sierra Club, The Palisades, North Fork American River Alliance and Donner Summit Area Association on a vision plan for Donner Summit, Eaton said.

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