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Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Big Deals Brewing to Halt Sprawl Between Reno and Lake Tahoe

2 Big Deals: Land Trusts Seek $$ to Save the "Cornerstone property" in Martis Valley, Near Lake Tahoe; 7 Miles of Truckee River Saved
and for map of Truckee Donner Land Trust saved lands click here:

Photo: Dry Lake at Waddle Ranch in Fall 2006.

Shortly after the Placer County Board of Supervisors approved the Martis Valley Community Plan in late 2004, the Truckee Donner Land Trust, in partnership with The Trust for Public Land, began negotiations to acquire 1,462 acres in the heart of Martis Valley known as Waddle Ranch. The property is now under contract for $23.5 million, easily the most expensive acquisition the Land Trust has pursued, with a closing date of October 31, 2007. The fate of Waddle Ranch will be decided over the next eight months as the Land Trust and TPL work to assemble a funding package necessary to purchase and permanently protect the property.

The stakes are huge. “If we are not successful, another resort development in the Martis Valley is inevitable,” said David Brown, Land Trust Board member and Chair of the Lands Committee. During the past decade, other former working ranches in Martis Valley have been transformed into high-end luxury resort subdivisions. Waddle Ranch was a working cattle ranch until the early 1960’s.

The Land Trust and TPL are assembling the funding from multiple private and public partners. Funding has already been secured from four sources including the Truckee Tahoe Airport District, the State of California’s Sierra Nevada Cascade Grant Program and Placer County. The State Wildlife Conservation Board, will consider a $6.5 million grant at its May Board meeting. The property scored exceptionally high during its review by the WCB staff, a prerequisite step before submission to the Board.

The sum of funding from these sources is close to the contract price, but to close the gap, TPL and the Land Trust must raise $2.5 million from private individuals and have launched a capital campaign to meet this goal. Early and significant support from the thousands of California residents that pass through Martis Valley annually will ensure that this important property is protected in its natural state for the enjoyment of future generations.

“This opportunity is the culmination of six years of work by a coalition of public and private partners, including landowners, developers, government agencies, nonprofits, and citizen groups,” said Perry Norris, Executive Director of the Truckee Donner Land Trust. “If successful, this effort will set a precedent for cooperation between non-traditional partners who share a common interest in preserving quality of life in the Sierra.”

With the approval of the Martis Valley Community Plan in 2004 by the Placer County Board of Supervisors, Martis Valley was given entitlements for extensive development, including plans for more than 6,000 new condominiums and townhouses and five new golf courses. A coalition of environmental and civic organizations, led by Sierra Watch and the Mountain Area Preservation Foundation, united to oppose the entitlement plan and together with the developers of Northstar, Martis Camp, and Timilick Tahoe, worked to broker a conservation-oriented agreement that would benefit residents of the valley as well as the many thousands of visitors it attracts each year. This landmark agreement will protect the valley north of Highway 267 while allowing development to the south, adjacent to existing developments and nearby Northstar.

“Waddle Ranch is the cornerstone property on the north side of Highway 267,” said Sara Taddo, Land Conservation Director of Truckee Donner Land Trust. “Its protection is critical to the future of Martis Valley. In addition to its size and location, the ranch is the valley’s most biologically diverse property. We can not afford to lose its scenic, ecological, and cultural resources.”

If protected, Waddle Ranch will provide miles of new cross-country skiing, hiking and biking trails, enabling the public to access the Tahoe National Forest, Martis Creek Lake National Recreation Area, and Mount Rose Wilderness Area. Its protection will also contribute to the creation of a 10-mile open space corridor for wildlife movement and recreation.

The Morgan Family Foundation has provided a key lead gift of $500,000. “The future of Martis Valley hangs in the balance,” said Becky Morgan, a former State Senator and President of the Morgan Family Foundation.

The Land Trust and TPL are also pursuing a 160-acre acquisition that borders Waddle Ranch to the southeast.

Partners Protect 3,344 Acres of Truckee River Canyon
Deal will protect wildlife habitat and scenic beauty at "gateway to California"

Truckee, Calif. — June 21, 2007 — Seven miles of one of the most ecologically rich and scenic stretches of the Truckee River in the eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains are now permanently preserved thanks to an alliance of public and private partners in California and Nevada.

The Nature Conservancy brokered the acquisition of a 3,344-acre property near Truckee, California, from Sierra Pacific Power Company (SPPC) for $2 million. The California Resources Agency provided $1.5 million for the purchase through the 2002 River Parkways Grant Program, with the Conservancy providing private funds to complete the deal.

"The concept of protecting contiguous pieces of property is essential for wildlife corridors and habitat conservation," said Resources Secretary Mike Chrisman. "Thanks to our great partnerships, projects like these are creating a legacy of conservation for our generation and the generations to follow."

The California Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB) approved the acquisition of the 3,252 acre upland portion of the property, to be held by the State of California. The Department of Fish and Game (DFG) will manage all but 92 acres of the property – the riparian corridor – that will be owned by the Truckee Meadows Water Authority, per the stipulations of a pre-existing agreement with SPPC. The Truckee Donner Land Trust (TDLT), which played a role in securing funding, will hold a public access and conservation easement on these riverside acres and intends to open them to the general public for passive recreation. In cooperation with the partners, DFG will develop a Land Management Plan to guide management activities on the upland property, including wildlife related recreational opportunities.

"This acquisition is an outstanding example of a diverse partnership with a shared conservation vision achieving on-the-ground results - the protection of a spectacular and ecologically important canyon," explains Mike Conner, project director with The Nature Conservancy. "This gateway to California will now remain forever wild."

Situated adjacent to the Nevada border along Interstate 80, the property provides a scenic welcome to passengers of more than 34,000 cars per day to California. More importantly, scientists from The Nature Conservancy and DFG identified the canyon property as a top priority for preservation due to its high quality wildlife habitat.

"It's so rewarding for the Wildlife Conservation Board to partner with other public agencies, the conservation community, and private enterprise in order to preserve this significant stretch of riparian and upland property for future generations," said WCB Executive Director John Donnelly. "This transaction is a great example of what can be achieved through a joint cooperative effort."

This property encompasses seven miles of riverfront and many miles of tributary streams with large stands of cottonwood-riparian forest and a willow-riparian corridor. These habitats support birds such as the yellow warbler and warbling vireo. The property’s uplands connect hundreds of thousands of acres of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest to the Tahoe National Forest and therefore provide important movement corridors for wildlife, including mule deer from the Verdi subunit of the Loyalton-Truckee Deer Herd.

Sandwiched between Truckee and Reno, both of which are expanding at dramatic rates, the primary threat to the Truckee River Canyon is low-density residential development.

"We’re pleased to be a part of preserving portions of the Truckee River Canyon," said Sierra Pacific Power Company President, Jeff Ceccarelli. "We are proud of our partnership with The Nature Conservancy and Truckee Meadows Water Authority, whose cooperation and vision helped make this project possible."

The 92 acres that will be owned by TMWA encompass the riparian corridor, with TDLT holding a conservation easement to monitor and ensure the protection of the natural communities on the land.

"The most amazing part of this conservation effort is its sheer size," says Perry Norris, executive director of the Truckee Donner Land Trust. "It is rare today to protect such a large swath of contiguous lands in a single watershed."

The easement will allow for passive recreation on the parcels, including rafting, fishing and birdwatching. The agreement will permit TMWA to maintain and construct facilities related only to its hydropower operation on the property.

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