Preservation group acquires Gray Creek Canyon; Efforts under way for Truckee River land buy | SierraSun.com

Preservation group acquires Gray Creek Canyon; Efforts under way for Truckee River land buy

Christina Nelson

On a hike this summer through Gray Creek Canyon, Truckee Donner Land Trust Executive Director Perry Norris saw a bear, an eagle and other wildlife common to the Sierra Nevada.

“It’s really quite stunning,” he said of the steep canyon area.

Today, months later, the land trust is expected to acquire 135 acres of the canyon using money from Nevada County’s Dryden Wilson Bequest Fund.

The fund provided the county with $880,000 to go toward parks and open space, said Nevada County Supervisor Barbara Green, but some new members of the board wanted to use the money for other county expenses, like roads.

“During the campaign, one of [the candidates] said, ‘We don’t need more parks,'” Green said.

Hoping to give out the money as the bequestor wished, Green and the former board doled out the funds before the end of the year and before the new board was seated.

Green said it is legal to use money given to local government for things other than what it was intended for, but that it’s not in the best interest of that government agency.

“It’s legal, but it’s not nice and it certainly doesn’t build trust with future bequestors,” Green said. “Who would ever give us money in the future?”

The land trust began pursuing the acquisition of a portion of Gray Creek Canyon earlier this winter, and received $130,000 from the bequest fund in December.

The canyon is a rugged and remote area adjacent to the Mt. Rose Wilderness Area. Before the 1997 flood, a trail ran from the canyon through the wilderness area, and the land trust hopes to eventually establish a new trail that would link the canyon to the Tahoe Rim Trail and other trails planned in the Truckee River corridor.

“We would like to see the public make use of this beautiful gem,” Norris said.

Mountain lion, bear, mule deer and raptors reside in the Gray Creek area, and it could also be a potential habitat for the endangered Sierra Mountain Yellow Legged Frog.

The area is prone to erosion and the land trust hopes to work with local groups to come up with conservation projects.

“By its nature it’s highly sedimentary rock in that canyon,” Norris said. “[Erosion] has been exasperated by logging in the area.”

The land trust is also nearing completion of an acquisition of a 3,400-acre parcel along the Truckee River, between the state line and Floriston, which will be part of a Truckee River corridor restoration project.

Although the acquisition along the Truckee River is not yet complete, Norris said the land trust will be using money, totaling $120,000, from Proposition 40, which was also distributed in December by the Nevada County Board of Supervisors.

California Proposition 40 – which passed in March of 2002 – allocated $2.6 billion in state funds for conservation, neighborhood parks and coastline and watershed protection. Proposition 50, a bond measure funding habitat restoration, coastal protection projects and improvements to public water systems, passed in November’s general election and brought the state’s conservation bonds up to approximately $6 billion.

“We’re working with the Truckee River Watershed Council as well as the Nature Conservancy and the Trust for Public Land to come up with an overall conservation strategy,” Norris said.

“The good news for the Truckee River right now – while clearly the state fiscal crisis will impose consequences in the Truckee area and the Sierra Nevada – because of Proposition 50, we’re confident about future funding,” Norris said.