Deal protects 533 acres in Washoe Valley |

Deal protects 533 acres in Washoe Valley

Sandra Chereb

RENO – A conservation group has purchased 533 acres in scenic Washoe Valley, the fourth in a series of land deals to preserve large swaths between Reno and Carson City as open space, officials announced Tuesday.

The latest acquisition brokered by The Conservation Fund includes 2,938 acre-feet of surface and ground water rights on the old ranch land and wetlands bordering the west shore of Washoe Lake, said Mike Ford, the group’s Nevada director in Las Vegas.

The parcel about 15 miles south of Reno runs on both sides of U.S. Highway 395, stretching from the north end of the valley south to near the middle of the valley at Bower’s Mansion.

The deal was finalized last month and the land has been turned over to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Ford said.

“The water rights have been transferred to BLM and they are going to keep them on the ground, to keep the area green and keep Washoe Lake replenished,” Ford said. “They won’t be transferred off the property.”

Money for the $27.7 million deal came from Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act, which allows the federal government to sell government-owned parcels around Las Vegas for development, and use the proceeds to buy environmentally sensitive land elsewhere in the state.

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“The protection of these sensitive lands is our legacy for us and future generations,” said Juan Palma, BLM Las Vegas field manager in Las Vegas.

Nevada’s two U.S. senators, Democrat Harry Reid and Republican John Ensign, hailed the deal as a way to preserve the fast-growing region near the eastern edge of the Sierra Nevada from development.

“We designed this law to help encourage responsible growth while also protecting our natural treasures,” said Reid, the highest-ranking Democrat in the Senate.

“The Washoe Valley is a beautiful part of our state’s landscape and offers unique opportunities for breathtaking scenic views,” Ensign said.

The Conservation Fund began negotiations about five years ago for the property once know as the Casey Ranch. The estate sold the holdings to Falcon Capital, which intended to develop the property but agreed to work with the Fund and government agencies for a public buyout, Ford said.

Three other parcels were purchased in the previous three years, Ford said. Last year, 34 acres next to Davis Creek park were sold to Washoe County for $900,000, he said.

Two other parcels totaling about 1,000 acres were bought in 2002 and 2003 to be administered by the BLM or Forest Service.

So far, the acquisitions total 1,573 acres of land and 3,060 acre-feet of water rights and have cost about $41 million, the conservation group said.

Ford said there is one more 300-acre parcel the group wants to acquire to complete its goal.

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The Conservation Fund: