Earliest ranches seek conservation easements
May 4, 2017
Two of Douglas County's earliest ranches have been nominated for conservation in what may be the last hurrah for a federal program that has preserved more than 20,000 acres of agricultural land in Carson Valley.
Nominations for 1,373 acres of Park ranch land and another 419 acres on the Van Sickle Ranch were shipped out on Wednesday, according to Legacy Land & Water owner Jacques Etchegoyhen. The deadline for nominations is today.
On Thursday, commissioners endorsed two other proposals, including one for 292 acres owned by J&S Cattle Co., south of Centerville Lane and east of Foothill Road. The property was part of the original homestead settled by Ben Palmer in 1853.
Also endorsed was a 165-acre portion of the Rivertree Ranch located on either side of the East Fork between Gardnerville and the Ranchos.
In all, commissioners have endorsed 2,249 acres of easements for purchase using money raised by the sale of federal land in the Las Vegas Valley. A panel suggests which projects will be funded and the final decision is made by the Secretary of the Interior.
But dark clouds are gathering over the 17th round of the Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act with the possibility the Bureau of Land Management will seek to divert $230 million raised through the program.
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Sen. Dean Heller wrote a letter of his own defending the act and opposing the recession of the money.
"These resources are obligated for important wildlife restoration, conservation, outdoor recreation and infrastructure development projects in the state of Nevada, and are an important component of carefully negotiated public land legislation enacted by the Nevada Congressional Delegation over the past two decades," he said, asking that line in the agency's budget request be eliminated.
Etchegoyhen said both the Van Sickle and Park properties are divided into 40-acre parcels, which could be sold at any time.
"One of the questions they ask is whether this property is in danger of not being available later," Etchegoyhen told county commissioners. "This property is in danger. If you don't think six or eight fantastic wet water riverfront parcels would sell quickly in Nevada, I think we all know that they would."
The Park land is located south of Muller Lane and west of Highway 88 and surrounds the Dangberg Home Ranch Historic Park.
This is the second year the Park property has been nominated under the program.
Etchegoyhen said the previous nomination was twice the size at 2,835 acres, which may have discouraged the committee that makes the decisions. Instead, an easement was approved on John Ascuaga's Jacks Valley ranch.
"We're trying to push every button we can to get this funding," he said. "Maybe the request last time was a little bit audacious. This go-around we decided to focus on the historic land around Dangberg home ranch park."
Etchegoyhen said unlike other means of preserving agricultural property, purchasing conservation easements ensures the property will remain in ranching.
"The best planning is done with a checkbook," he said. "This is the only permanent way to preserve property in Nevada."
The ranches will provide a haven for wildlife, while preserving the Valley's agricultural heritage."
"This will keep the ranchland intact and offer some public access points that don't affect the integrity of the ranch," he said. "We know there's lots of wildlife on all these ranches. The eagles like it."
He said the Parks have offered a 32-acre parcel between the Carson Valley Swim Center and Highway 88 for government.
A trail easement along the south side of Muller Lane similar to the Genoa Vista Trail is also on the table.
"The vistas are just stunning," he said. "It may be this gets us very close to a trail from Minden to Genoa someday."
As important as trails and wildlife, both the Park and Van Sickle properties are part of the west Valley's drainage.
"The Dangberg Home Ranch is truly the flood safety valve for all of Minden," Etchegoyhen said. "Were it not for that open landscape, I think that significant portion of Minden would be vulnerable to floods. That the water can spread out over 1,400 acres takes the pressure off."
Etchegoyhen estimated protecting the ranch would cost $12 million.
"In the Truckee Meadows they have to recreate a system like this and it will cost them close to $10 million a year to maintain," he said. "They're going to try and replicate a flood system that Carson Valley already has for basically nothing. It will save the taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, and not to mention, it gets to stay a working ranch."
The home ranch was founded by H.F. Dangberg in 1857 after he arrived in Carson Valley. The family was instrumental in bringing the V&T Railway to Carson Valley.
Van Sickle Station was serving travelers along the Emigrant Trail in 1852, before Nevada became a state. Its proprietor, Henry Van Sickle, served on Douglas County's first board of commissioners. Owned by Tieg Family Investments, the land is east of Foothill Road on both sides of Muller.
It is adjacent to the 800-acre River Fork Ranch preserved by the Nature Conservancy.