Waddle Ranch now open to the public | SierraSun.com

Waddle Ranch now open to the public

Greyson Howard/Sierra SunMembers of the Truckee Donner Land Trust and the Trust for Public Land gather beside a new sign welcoming visitors to Waddle Ranch in Martis Valley.

As the sun broke through the last wisps of fog Thursday morning, a small but enthusiastic crowd gathered at a closed gate leading into the Martis Valley.

The metal gate across a dirt road barred the entrance to Waddle Ranch, a 1,462-acre former cattle ranch north of Highway 267.

The group paused just long enough to remove the padlock and open the gate, a symbolic gesture after a long campaign to preserve the land as open space.

“This is pretty much a conservation grand slam in this day and age,” said Perry Norris, executive director of the Truckee Donner Land Trust. “This reflects a real sentiment in the Sierra that enough [development] is enough.”

The event celebrated the Land Trust’s $23.5 million purchase of the property from the Pritzker family, owners of the Hyatt hotel chain, protecting the dramatic landscape from the addition of as many as a thousand homes.

Driving through a forest shading bitterbrush and sage, Norris pointed to a stand of pines that will now remain undeveloped.

“The forest itself is a healthy forest,” Norris remarked. “Over their would have been a fairway.”

But the victory the purchase represents is just the beginning of a long-term effort to conserve the Martis Valley and the Sierra Nevada, Norris said.

Building on the success, Norris said the land trust’s goal is to continue purchasing land in Martis Valley and toward Brockway summit, eventually connecting the swath of Martis Valley supervised by the Army Corps of Engineers to the Mount Rose Wilderness area, creating a 40,000-acre corridor of open space.

“This is a launching pad for other projects,” said David Sutton of the Trust for Public Land. “It creates momentum and conservation support.”

Sutton said the Waddle Ranch purchase was one for the record books with the deal’s complexity, cost and level of cooperation among a wide array of groups.

Aside from such usual conservation groups as the Land Trust, Mountain Area Preservation Foundation and Sierra Watch, government entities including Placer County, the Truckee Tahoe Airport District and the State of California contributed to the total funding.

Private donors and even Martis Valley developers pitched in the remaining money to meet the $23.5-million price tag.

Looking to Waddle’s more immediate future, Norris said the Land Trust would be working with the Army Corps of Engineers to manage the new public land, and crews would begin fuels reduction and fire management in the woods within the next few weeks.

“We are taking immediate action to keep the forest healthy,” Norris said.

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