SAVING the RANCH
With real estate developers offering to buy his 725-acre Sierra Valley ranch, Russell Turner chose quite a different real estate decision.
Aided by the Pacific Forest Trust and the Truckee-based Sierra Business Council, Turner signed an easement that assures no homes will sprout up on the hay farm and cattle ranch his family has owned for over 150 years.
Conservation easement signings like the one that recently paid the Turner family $4 million have become an increasingly popular option for Sierra Valley ranchers that have little money in the bank, but are sitting on suddenly lucrative tracts of land.
Non-profits like the Pacific Forest Trust and Sierra Business Council have teamed up to offer the easements to assure that the open land and ranching heritage of the Sierra Valley are not splintered apart by rapid real estate development.
“The Turner Creek Ranch was clearly a very high priority project in the Sierra Valley,” said Steve Frisch, president of the Sierra Business Council. “It’s important that these ranching uses continue to preserve the historical significance.”
The Pacific Forest Trust ” a nonprofit organization that seeks to preserve the integrity and productivity of America’s privately owned forests ” holds the easement that prevents the parcel from being subdivided and developed but leaves the Turners as owners and managers of the land.
“I am grateful for my partnership with the Pacific Forest Trust, which has allowed me to protect my ranch and with it, the key to preserving my family’s way of life here in the Sierra,” Turner said in a news release.
The market value of the land was $4.4 million, and the California State Resource Agency’s Sierra Cascade Conservation Grant Program awarded the Pacific Forest Trust a $4 million grant for the acquisition of the easement. The Turner family donated the remainder of the price, enabling the conservation group to make the purchase below market value.
“The idea is to make sure the land remains a working ranch,” said Megan Wargo, conservation project manager of the Pacific Forest Trust. “Our role is to make sure all of the restrictions put down by the easement are maintained to protect the property’s future.”
The Sierra Business Council contributed funds to assist with project development, planning assessment, and appraisal costs, said Frisch.
The business council was able to donate $65,000 from a $5 million grant received from the Packard Foundation in 2001, which was designated for land acquisition, Frisch said.
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