Lush Coppins Meadow habitat latest in Sierra checkerboard to be preserved |

Lush Coppins Meadow habitat latest in Sierra checkerboard to be preserved

KV Van Lom
Special to the Sun
Wildflowers abound in Coppins Meadow in spring and summer.
Courtesy Truckee Donner Land Trust |

What is the Sierra Checkerboard?

When work began through the Sierra on the transcontinental railroad in 1863, the federal government granted railroad companies ownership of every other square mile of land, keeping the squares in between.

In the mountains, railroads held on to their private sections, while many public sections became part of the national forests.

Timber companies eventually acquired close to 75 percent of the private land, creating a checkerboard pattern of alternating private and public land across the central Sierra region.

The checkerboard ownership pattern that persists today presents significant conservation and land management challenges.

As population pressures increase, and economic changes make timber harvesting less profitable, timber companies are selling their scattered parcels for residential development and drastically impacting the Sierra landscape.

Roads cut to reach new homes destroy wildlife habitat, interrupt migration corridors, and degrade the quality of our rivers and streams.

Thus, the Land Trust’s Sierra Checkerboard Initiative is a plan to consolidate and protect the remnant checkerboard lands.

The program will establish a pattern of ownership that meets the human, economic, and ecological needs of the central Sierra.

Source: Truckee Donner Land Trust

TRUCKEE, Calif. — After 25 years of conservation efforts and with more than 33,000 acres protected, the Truckee Donner Land Trust held its Silver Anniversary last weekend to also commemorate at its latest acquisition, Coppins Meadow.

Coppins Meadows is a 153-acre parcel that straddles Jackson Meadows Road 15 miles north of Truckee and abuts the north boundary of the 3,000-acre Webber Lake property the Land Trust currently owns.

“Having our 25th anniversary event at Coppins Meadow is significant. There were once plans for a trailer park on the property. But now it is protected forever,” said Perry Norris, executive director of the Land Trust.

The Coppins Meadow property — which borders the most important conservation effort in the Northern Sierra — has exchanged hands three times in the past 10 years, and all of its owners intended to develop.

The more homes built on Jackson Meadows Road, the more likely it is that it will be plowed. Should this happen, the floodgates for further development in “The Sierra Checkerboard” could blow wide open.

The Meadows are known habitat for sensitive birds and mammals including Western willow flycatcher, bald eagle, American Marten and Pacific fisher.

The property’s scenic qualities at the entrance to Webber Lake are important as well. As a healthy montane meadow that includes a perennial creek, it is an important biological resource in the Little Truckee River Watershed.

An acknowledgment during the celebration’s program on Sept. 19 marked the Meadow’s status as a newly conserved property, with significant funders to the acquisition on hand to join in the celebrations.

“We have a coveted history of working together to make a lasting impact on the iconic landscape of the Truckee Donner region,” said Beth Howard, vice president and general manager of Northstar California Resort. “Through our EpicPromise program, we are delighted to contribute both financial support and employee volunteer hours to help protect and preserve the places we love, like Coppins Meadow, for future generations.”

The Land Trust received acquisition funding from Vail Resorts EpicPromise, the California Department of Natural Resources Environmental Enhancement Mitigation Program, and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Sierra Meadows Program, along with some Board-designated funds were employed.

Nearly 250 people filled Coppins Meadows to celebrate and toast to the Land Trust’s silver anniversary on Sept. 19.

The event was generously sponsored by Tahoe Mountain Resorts Foundation on behalf of Mountainside Partners, Squaw Valley, Northstar California, Truckee Tahoe Airport District, and Vail Resorts.

In-kind donations came from REI, Vail Resorts EpicPromise, Mountain Hardware & Sports, Barbara Lekisch, Sam Okamoto Photography and Michael Hogan. Many volunteers also helped at the event.

The Truckee Donner Land Trust preserves and protects scenic, historic and recreational lands with high natural resource values in the greater Truckee Donner region and manages recreational activities on these lands in a sustainable manner.

K.V. Van Lom is Communications & Administration Director for the Truckee Donner Land Trust. View a full list of the Land Trust’s partners and allies at

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