Located just north of Lake Tahoe, Lemon Canyon Ranch and Calpine Meadow Ranch — which span 1,400 and 237 acres respectively — have been permanently protected from development through the use of conservation easements, purchased by PFT with landowner support and key funding from the Sierra Nevada Conservancy (SNC) and California’s Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB).
“These projects in magnificent Sierra Valley are important to the heritage and the value of the working landscapes in the Sierra,” SNC Executive Officer Jim Branham said. “Not only do they preserve the ecological health of the land and the watershed, they preserve the history of Sierra Valley as well.”
The new working lands easements will prevent development or subdivision of the properties while keeping the lands in private ownership and productive use for ranching and forestry. They are located at either end of a 4,470-acre conservation corridor the Pacific Forest Trust (PFT) has created by conserving a series of ranches along the valley’s southern edge, which play a critical role in collecting and delivering about half of the valley’s water supply. Mountain snowmelt here flows into the valley’s extensive wetland system, lush meadows and pastures that feed the headwaters of the Middle Fork of the Feather River, a federally designated wild and scenic river. This major Sacramento River tributary sends water downstream to 22 million Californians.
As the Sierra’s largest alpine wetlands system, Sierra Valley supports the greatest concentration and diversity of waterfowl, shorebirds and raptors in the region. Its pastures and rich forests have a long history of cattle ranching and timber production and are home to more than 250 species of wildlife.
People are attracted to southern Sierra Valley for its relatively inexpensive land prices and rural beauty. The Sierra County economy relies greatly on tourism and recreation, which has fueled second home and resort development, including golf courses, in the vicinity.
PFT worked with local land developers N.C. Brown Development Inc., which had planned to build 30 homes on Calpine Meadow Ranch, located within the southern conservation corridor. After the housing market collapsed Brown Development contacted PFT to pursue conservation of the scenic 237-acre working cattle ranch, which encompasses 168 acres of wet meadows surrounded by forests and includes 2.5 miles of Fletcher Creek, Spring Channel and numerous tributaries.
The Lemon Canyon and Calpine easements were acquired with support from the landowners as well as state funders SNC, which donated $1 million to help cover the costs of both easements and WCB, which awarded $1,052,000 towards the Lemon Canyon easement costs. The owners of both properties contributed to the projects by generously selling the conservation easements to PFT for substantially less than their appraised value. A grant from the Sierra Business Council provided invaluable support for project development costs.
For more information, visit www.PacificForest.org.