Conservancy elects to buy Sunset Ranch | TahoeDailyTribune.com
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Conservancy elects to buy Sunset Ranch

Andy Bourelle

The California Tahoe Conservancy could own the Sunset Ranch by 1999.

The Conservancy’s governing board approved Friday the expenditure of $2.5 million to buy the 189 acres of land where the ranch is located.

Conservancy officials indicated it would take the rest of the year to work out the details of the transaction.

“I think this is a wonderful opportunity,” said John Upton, Conservancy board member.

Bordering on U.S. Forest Service and Lake Tahoe Airport lands, the land holds about 1-1/2 miles of the Upper Truckee River. The property is a key wildlife habitat, according to the Conservancy, providing movement corridors for bald eagles, black bears, deer and other animals.

Bruce Eisner, acquisitions manger for the Conservancy, said there are areas on the property with severely disturbed soil, roads and trails that cut into the meadows and river banks needing restoration.

The Sunset Ranch has had decades of public and private recreation use, Eisner said, providing areas for equestrian and snowmobile use. Cattle graze there, too.

Those uses will stop, and most of the existing structures on the land will be removed.

A small water well pump house will remain as well as some of the fences.

Funding for the purchase is coming out of three of the Conservancy’s programs: The stream environment zone/watershed restoration, wildlife enhancement and environmentally sensitive lands programs.

Dennis Machida, executive officer of the Conservancy, said the purchase could not be made without the help of the American Land Conservancy, which is providing an additional $500,000 and making the actual purchase of the property. The Tahoe Conservancy then will purchase the land from the land conservancy for $2.5 million.

The Conservancy will go through a planning process to determine what its intentions for the land will be.

Providing recreational access to the property will also be considered.

“Because of the implications of what access and recreation might mean (to the environment), we need a separate planning process,” Machida said. “We left the door open for that.”

The Conservancy has purchased, since the beginning of its operation in 1985, more than 5,000 parcels of land on the California side of the Lake Tahoe Basin. The agency preserves and restores environmentally sensitive parcels of land to help restore the clarity of Lake Tahoe, enhancing wildlife and providing recreational opportunities when the land can handle it.

The Sunset Ranch parcel will be one of the largest South Shore purchases the Conservancy has made.

The Sunset Ranch has indicated it will remain open for the remainder of the year.

Tahoe Daily Tribune E-mail: tribune@tahoe.com

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