Landing the Conservancy
Its not often that a town in the Sierra Nevada be it in the high country or the foothills has the opportunity to have dozens of jobs materialize in literally one decision.Truckee could and should be in that position. The Sierra Nevada Conservancy was officially created with Gov. Arnold Schwarzeneggers signature in September. By law, the new state agency must be headquartered within the 25-million acre boundary that stretches from the Oregon border to Kern County in the south. The conservancy will funnel state and federal tax dollars into Sierra conservation projects aimed at, among other things, maintaining watersheds, wildfire management, habitat acquisition, recreation and assisting mountain communities in their efforts to remain economically viable. To do that, $3.5 million and 13 staff positions have been budgeted by the state. And thats just the beginning. In the long run, up to 50 jobs could be added to the conservancy effort.The governors signature came after Assemblymen Tim Leslie, R-Tahoe City, and John Laird, D-Santa Cruz, hashed out concerns that youd figure a conservative Republican and liberal Democrat would have regarding property rights, local control and the conservancys boundaries. But well before Schwarzenegger, Laird and Leslie there were the grassroots efforts to get a Sierra Nevada Conservancy off the ground. Probably the most active and organized were from Nevada County in the form of Truckees Sierra Business Council and the Nevada City-based Sierra Fund. Now that the conservancy deed is done, officials from the city of Auburn have adopted a resolution that the town be considered for the headquarters. Ditto for Nevada City. Placer County will also lobby for the headquarters, as will El Dorado County.With all due respect to those places, except for Nevada City, why, other than location, do they rate? By and large it was the pavement pounding of the Sierra Business Council and activists (love em or hate em) from western Nevada County that got the conservancy ball rolling the first time several years ago (when it failed) and then pushed it through the Legislature last year.Yes, Auburn and the west slope of El Dorado County can tout their close proximity to the state capital. But that is exactly why they shouldnt be blessed with the Sierra Nevada Conservancy headquarters. For the most part, those areas are now bedroom communities of Sacramento County. As such they havent had to deal with the problems dwindling jobs, slim tax revenue, resource management that towns higher in elevation or farther off the beaten Interstate 80 or Highway 50 tracks have had to deal with.Even some of our Nevada County supervisors from down the hill have voiced their skepticism about the conservancy, viewing it as another blatant attempt by tree-huggers to usurp property rights (remember Natural Heritage 2020?). Get over it. If Leslie got on board, so can you. But perhaps that disdain is good enough reason to drop Nevada City off the short list.And while Truckee isnt turning into a ghost town, having the conservancy headquartered here would be a huge step in diversifying our tourism/retiree-based economy. After all, those are just a couple of the overriding goals the Sierra Business Council has been striving toward for years now to help communities throughout the mountain range survive into the future. Meanwhile, the Town of Truckee and the Truckee Donner Chamber of Commerce are starting a lobbying effort for the conservancy headquarters. Drop them a line to see what you can do to help. Dozens of well-placed letters to Schwarzenegger, Leslie, Laird and our representatives in Sacramento Sen. Dave Cox and Assemblyman Rick Keene can tip the scales in our favor. Yes, Truckee can get hammered with snow. But we deal with it thats life in the Sierra Nevada. Come to think of it, perhaps thats exactly what future board members of the Sierra Nevada Conservancy need to experience.Jamie Bate is the editor of the Sierra Sun. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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