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SPI Places TPZ Lands in Conservation Easement

posted Jul 21, 2011, 11:31 AM by Stevee Duber
    HSRA members who helped thwart SPI's 2009 bid to rezone  7,085 acres of land in the Timber Production Zone District to a more development friendly zone rejoice! The Truckee Donner Land Trust announced the group has purchased a conservation easement over those same acres along Henness Pass Road, near Jackson Meadows Reservoir. The land will now be open to public recreational uses while remaining a working forest.

    This is part of a first-of-its-kind deal with the Sierra Pacific Industries, a timber company and California's largest private land holder, which previously had plans to rezone the property — which could have opened the door for development, said Perry Norris, executive director of the land trust.

    “This is a huge leap forward toward fixing the checkerboard, as well as preventing the opening of the flood gates to rural sprawl,” Norris said.

    The Sierra checkerboard is a historic land ownership pattern of every other square mile of land being held privately, dating back to the routing of the transcontinental railroad. Today, that pattern could mean a sprawling patchwork of development, inconsistent land management, and increased forest fire risk.

    The latest conservation easements went for a total of $3.250,000, Norris said, with funding from the Wildlife Conservation Board and the Nature Conservancy.

    “This is very critical for source water protection — there are a bunch of wet meadows that host willow fly catchers, and species like that,” said John Svahn, stewardship director for the land trust. “This conservation easement also keeps migration corridors open — and the wolverine has been spotted in the area numerous times.”

    But this easement doesn't mean the land will be closed off to the public, stressed Norris.

    “All the easements are working forest so SPI can continue to harvest timber within the terms of the conservation easement — sending timber to Quincy — so it's good for the local economy,” Norris said. “And the public access component allows snowmobiling, mountain biking, hiking, bird watching, hunting — and gives the land trust the right to build public trails in the future.”

    If Sierra Pacific Industries sells the land with conservation easements on it, those easements go to whoever is the next owner, so that public access is secured in perpetuity, Norris said.

    For more information on HSRA's successful effort to block the rezone in 2009 see postings on Home page.