WASHOE VALLEY - Working with developer Falcon Capital at Lake Tahoe, The Conservation Fund has nearly completed a deal that puts Washoe Valley's Casey Ranch in public ownership.
Mike Ford, Nevada director for the nonprofit conservation group, said the nearly 2,000-acre ranch will be protected from development "in perpetuity."
The latest purchase - the fourth since 2003 - transfers 533 acres to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and brings the total amount of land purchased to 1,573 acres.
Ford said that makes it the largest single project yet funded under the 1998 Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act - $40 million. In addition, Washoe County paid $900,000 for a 34-acre parcel at the entrance to Davis Creek Park at the north end of the valley.
"It was supposed to be about $20 million but land values have skyrocketed," he said.
Ford said the remaining piece - about 300 acres - will cost about $16 million more.
In addition to the land itself, Ford said the property comes with a total of 3,060 acre feet of water rights.
"The fact we got both land and water, we're going to be able to keep that property green and it's going to be available for all citizens," Ford said.
The parcel about 15 miles north of Carson City runs on both sides of Highway 395, stretching from the north end of the valley south to near the middle of the valley at Bowers Mansion.
He credited Randy Lane of Falcon Capital, the development company which purchased the land from the Casey family estate, for working with the Conservation Fund. He said, with land values skyrocketing, they probably could have gotten significantly more money by developing the ranch property.
"To their credit, they've had numerous opportunities to sell it but they worked with us and the county," he said.
To secure an option on the land, Ford said, Conservation Fund put up $10 million two years ago while it worked with the federal government to get land act money to pay for the property.
He also credited backing from Nevada's elected officials, especially U.S. Sens. John Ensign, R-Nev., and Harry Reid, D-Nev.
Altogether, Washoe County has acquired 34 acres, the U.S. Forest Service 548 acres west of Old U.S. 395 from Davis Creek to Bowers Mansion and BLM a total of 991 acres east of Old 395 to the edge of the lake.
Ford said the effort started five years ago when the Washoe Valley Working Group came to the conservation group and the county concerned about the "sprawl" as Reno spread south through Double Diamond and Damonte ranch lands toward Washoe Valley.
The lands act money is generated by the sale of federal lands in Clark County to enable growth surrounding Las Vegas. Those sales have generated more than $1 billion for a variety of projects in Nevada ranging from education to recreational projects to the purchase of environmentally sensitive lands both in the south and at Lake Tahoe.
"This was great work by the Conservation Fund and the BLM," said Reid.
The Conservation Fund, based in Alexandria, Va., is one of three major national conservation groups working to protect environmentally fragile lands. The others are the Nature Conservancy and the Trust for Public Land.
n Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 687-8750.