Open space conservation efforts continue north of Truckee |

Open space conservation efforts continue north of Truckee

Courtesy of The land trust's recent purchase of 7,085 acres of Sierra Pacific Industry lands along historic Henness Pass Road, near Jackson Meadows Reservoir, is critical for source water protection, as there are a bunch of wet meadows that host willow fly catchers and other species.
© Rich Reid |

TRUCKEE, Calif. and#8212; The Truckee Donner Land Trust’s conservation holdings north of Truckee continue to grow.

The regional conservation group now has conservation easements on 7,085 acres of Sierra Pacific Industry Lands along historic Henness Pass Road, near Jackson Meadows Reservoir.

This is part of a first-of-its-kind deal with the Sierra Pacific Industries, a timber company and California’s largest private land holder, which previously had plans to rezone the property and#8212; which could have opened the door for development, said Perry Norris, executive director of the land trust.

and#8220;This is a huge leap forward toward fixing the checkerboard, as well as preventing the opening of the flood gates to rural sprawl,and#8221; Norris said.

The Sierra checkerboard is a historic land ownership pattern of every other square mile of land being held privately, dating back to the routing of the transcontinental railroad. Today, that pattern could mean a sprawling patchwork of development, inconsistent land management, and increased forest fire risk.

The latest conservation easements went for a total of $3.250,000, Norris said, with funding from the Wildlife Conservation Board and the Nature Conservancy.

and#8220;This is very critical for source water protection and#8212; there are a bunch of wet meadows that host willow fly catchers, and species like that,and#8221; said John Svahn, stewardship director for the land trust. and#8220;This conservation easement also keeps migration corridors open and#8212; and the wolverine has been spotted in the area numerous times.and#8221;

But this easement doesn’t mean the land will be closed off to the public, stressed Norris.

and#8220;All the easements are working forest so SPI can continue to harvest timber within the terms of the conservation easement and#8212; sending timber to Quincy and#8212; so it’s good for the local economy,and#8221; Norris said. and#8220;And the public access component allows snowmobiling, mountain biking, hiking, bird watching, hunting and#8212; and gives the land trust the right to build public trails in the future.and#8221;

If Sierra Pacific Industries sells the land with conservation easements on it, those easements go to whoever is the next owner, so that public access is secured in perpetuity, Norris said.

More than 100 acres of land near the Martis Valley and across from Northstar-at-Tahoe are now off the table for development.

The land trust recently purchased 122 acres on the other side of Highway 267 from North Star Drive and#8212; once slated for development.

The $2.6 million purchase price was reached with the help of the Truckee Tahoe Airport, development transfer fees from Northstar originally negotiated by Sierra Watch and the Mountain Area Preservation Foundation, funding from the Northern Sierra Partnership, and an anonymous donor.

and#8220;This property will provide outstanding recreational opportunities liking existing trails to adjacent lands including Waddle Ranch, it has high scenic value along 267, has high natural resource value, and even historic value and#8212; it contains an old mining town called Elizabeth Town,and#8221; Norris said.

It is also a major water contributor to the middle fork of Martis Creek, Svahn said.

For Truckee Tahoe Airport, the purchase will help prevent annoyance from airplane traffic by keeping homes out from underneath flight paths, said Kevin Smith, general manager.

and#8220;We have a new jet approach that’s in the approval process that over flies that area, and it’s important to the airport district to do all we can to mitigate annoyance,and#8221; Smith said. and#8220;Every two to three years a new development proposal for that property would cycle through, and we’ve been able to take it off the books.and#8221;

Keeping homes out from under flight paths not only reduces the number of annoyed homeowners, but also improves safety, Smith said

This property is a piece in a puzzle the land trust is trying to put together, eventually connecting the Martis Valley’s Army Corps property and Waddle Ranch in the west to the Mount Rose Wilderness in the east and#8212; adding up to more than 70,000 acres of contiguous open space if the land trust is successful, Norris said.

The last development proposal would have sub-divided the 122 acres into twelve 10-acre parcels, Norris said.

Forestry work on the newly-acquired property is planned by the land trust, he added.

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