BLM purchases River Fork easement

A 739-acre site just southeast of Genoa will be preserved in perpetuity for wildlife and the people of Carson Valley. The $4 million conservation easement was purchased by the Bureau of Land Management June 15, Bureau officials announced Friday.

The property is owned by the Timken-Sturgis Foundation and The Nature Conservancy. This is just one piece of a larger puzzle that will keep agriculture viable and provide open space and wildlife habitat in Carson Valley, said Duane Petite, Carson River Project director for the Nature Conservancy.

"Conservation easements are one of the most powerful, effective tools communities have for protecting private lands. They allow owners to keep the land in private hands and at the same time keep the open space," Petite said. "This acquisition shows us that funding from the SNPLMA (Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act) is alive and well."

Four other conservation easements in Douglas County are being considered for funding by bureau officials and Jacques Etchegoyhen, spokesman for Terra Firma, said three of the projects his company is facilitating could be funded within the year.

The Scossa Ranch, which includes 535 acres of ranchlands just off Foothill Road, the 150-acre White Dairy on the corner of Waterloo and Centerville Lanes and the 138-acre Henningsen Ranch east of Highway 88 and south of Mottsville Lane are Terra Firma projects.

The Stodieck Brothers Ranch, 153 acres on the corner of Waterloo Lane and Highway 88, is not a Terra Firma project but it is also being considered for funding, Etchegoyhen said.

"I'm optimistic about the future," he said. "The BLM has stepped up and earmarked a person to handle these transactions and that's what it took. They are now methodically moving through the proposals and that's much better than the situation over the past couple of years."

Money from the Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act of 1998 provides funding for these projects and more through the sale of Bureau land primarily in and around Las Vegas.

Commissioners upgraded the zoning on Bureau land in north Douglas County hoping to add value to the property and it worked. It sold at auction for $16.1 million, that money earmarked for conservation easements in Douglas County.

County Commissioners expressed frustration with the process in January, after several parcels approved by the Bureau for this funding in 2003 were held up.

"I see three or four more successful transactions by the end of the year," Etchegoyhen said.

He hasn't added it up, but he estimates about 10,000 acres have been preserved in Douglas County through conservation easements, transfer development rights and clustering, a method that centralizes developed areas to save surrounding open lands.

River Fork Ranch already had a level of protection because it is owned by The Timken-Sturgis Foundation and the Nature Conservancy, but this higher level of permanent protection is very important, Petite said.

"It's very important from a biodiversity standpoint. Wildlife habitat and viewsheds are preserved and flood waters are allowed to move freely," he said.

The Timken-Sturgis Foundation funded acquisition of River Ranch to protect it and the project would have been impossible without them, Petite said.

"BLM provided the funding and The Nature Conservancy is providing the expertise," he said. "Judy (Sturgis) provided the vision and the drive."

The River Fork Ranch includes Brockliss Slough, a premiere migratory water bird area that is one of the most ecologically important sites in the Carson Valley.

Sturgis said a ranch master plan was developed when they purchased the property in 2000, outlining their mission to show by example how ranching and wildlife conservation are compatible. Completion of a fencing plan allows grazing cattle to be managed in a way that is beneficial to the wetlands. Public access is planned, complete with public trails and a wetland restoration center.

"We hope to begin work this fall," she said.

"This is a dream come true for those who believe our quality of life depends on protecting the habitat of wild species who also call Carson Valley their home," Sturgis said. "Our foundation is pleased to have been part of a team that worked to preserve this highly sensitive area."

Susie Vasquez can be reached at or 782-5121, ext. 211.


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