For the Sierra Nevada, vote yes on Prop 84 | SierraSun.com

For the Sierra Nevada, vote yes on Prop 84

The Truckee Donner Land Trust does not usually take sides on political contests.

But once in a while an issue is on the ballot that is so close to our organization’s mission to protect open space in the greater Truckee region, that we’d be remiss not to take a stand. In this case, the land trust is encouraging a YES vote on Proposition 84.

Prop 84 is a sweeping and needed conservation measure that will not only enhance the health of California’s natural resources, but also enhance its citizens’ quality of life. For the Sierra, Prop 84 will provide $54 million to the newly formed Sierra Conservancy and $34 million to the Tahoe Conservancy. These dollars will be used to protect water quality, open space, habitat and recreational lands.

California is facing enormous population growth in the coming years, with 25 million new residents expected by 2040. By 2020, Placer County’s and Nevada County’s populations are expected to double. But, unfortunately, California’s investments in infrastructure are not keeping pace with our massive population growth.

For the Tahoe Truckee region, this surging growth means unrelenting pressure for development. Conservation organizations, like the Truckee Donner Land Trust, are now in a footrace with development. If land isn’t acquired and protected now, it will either be developed or be too expensive to be acquired for conservation. Land is only going to get more expensive. That’s certainly been the case in other mountain resort communities further along the growth continuum.

Previous propositions assisted in partially funding numerous acquisitions completed by the Truckee Donner Land Trust and its partners, the Truckee Watershed Council, The Trust for Public Land and The Nature Conservancy. These include 2,000 acres above Donner Lake that included Schallenberger Ridge; 3,400 acres along the Truckee River; 2,000 acres surrounding Independence Lake; 640 acres on Snow Mountain; and 1,400 acres in Gray Creek Canyon, a critical tributary of the Truckee River.

Most recently, the State Department of Resources awarded the Land Trust $2.65 million for acquisitions in the Martis Valley and in Negro Canyon.

The Land Trust has had a run of tremendous successes, but for these to continue, especially for pending acquisitions in the Martis Valley, we need Prop 84 to pass.

Current funding for water quality, water supply reliability, natural resources and environmental protection programs is critically low, with past bond funds running out as early as this year, and the state spending less than 1 percent of the overall state budget on funding for resources. The Sierra Nevada, which consists of 24 percent of the state’s land mass and provides 65 percent of the state’s drinking water, has been particularly short-changed.

Importantly, the measure will not raise taxes and includes tough fiscal safeguards. Recognizing Californians’ strong desire to ensure such investments are made appropriately, the measure includes strict accountability provisions, including yearly independent audits and a citizen’s oversight committee.

Prop 84 is supported by a broad coalition of bipartisan interests, including: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Treasurer Phil Angelides, The League of California Cities, The California Chamber of Commerce, California Business Properties Association, Western Growers Association, Association of California Water Agencies, and the California Coastal Coalition.

For California, the Sierra Nevada, and the Truckee Tahoe region, please vote yes on Proposition 84.

Perry Norris is the executive director of the Truckee Donner Land Trust.