TRUCKEE, Calif. — An agreement among landowners, developers and local conservation groups intends to protect thousands of acres of land in the heart of the Sierra.
After five years of negotiating, Mountain Area Preservation, Sierra Watch, Sierra Pacific Industries and East West Partners recently finalized a conservation and development plan for a portion of Martis Valley.
“This agreement represents a major accomplishment for the entire Tahoe-Truckee Region,” said Alexis Ollar, executive director of Mountain Area Preservation, in a Wednesday statement announcing the deal. “Combined with previous conservation successes in Martis Valley, it ensures preservation of 50,000 contiguous acres of open space.”
The land proposed for permanent protection encompasses 6,376 acres from east of Highway 267 to Martis Peak, extending to the Mt. Rose Wilderness. It’s currently owned by Sierra Pacific Industries.
“Who knows what will happen 10 years, 100 years from now, so that’s why it’s important to secure an agreement to protect it,” said Tom Mooers, executive director of Sierra Watch, in light of previous development proposals within the valley.
“We’re still not at the end of the road,” he later added.
On Wednesday, East West Partners and Sierra Pacific Industries filed an application with Placer County to amend the Martis Valley Community Plan, which was adopted by the county board of supervisors in 2003 to guide Martis Valley’s physical, social and economic development until at least 2020.
Currently, land east of Highway 267 is designated for residential development of up to 1,360 units, said Blake Riva, senior partner of East West Partners.
The application proposes to shift that designation to the west of Highway 267, adjacent to Northstar, while seeking to reduce the number of allowable residential units to 760.
The application will go through an environmental review, public review and comment, and a Placer County Board of Supervisors vote, Riva said, potentially an 18- to 24-month process.
If approved, the land slated for conservation will be appraised so conservation groups may buy it, Riva said. Truckee Donner Land Trust and Trust for Public Land would be responsible for raising funding.
If funds cannot be raised, Sierra Pacific Industries would retain ownership, although it can’t develop the land due to a conservation easement, Riva said.
“Upon successfully completing our collective initiatives, we will have achieved something quite remarkable,” Riva said in a statement. “Most notably will be the preservation of the crown jewel of conservation in Martis Valley.”
The vision also includes conservation of lands west of Highway 267, the exact acreage of which will be known as the process moves forward, Ollar said.
Mark Pawlicki, spokesman for Sierra Pacific Industries, this week said 345 acres intends to be conserved.
According to Placer County, Martis Valley encompasses approximately 44,800 acres in the Sierra Nevada, with natural features such as Martis Creek, Dry Lake, steep terrain and forested areas.