Federal funds designated to preserve Valley open space | RecordCourier.com

Federal funds designated to preserve Valley open space

by Susie Vasquez

About 3,600 acres of Carson Valley real estate was recently earmarked for conservation easements through the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act. The easements will cost $22 million, the measure recently signed by Interior Secretary Gale Norton.

Exponential growth and the significant rise in property values could take its toll on efforts to conserve the Carson Valley’s agricultural lands. This measure is critical to saving open space here, said Douglas County Commissioner Jacques Etchegoyhen.

“If we don’t protect our open space in next five years, we’ll never have a chance to do it again,” he said. “Conservation is good business, but just as important is the fact that landowners need to be compensated.

“If you want to take owners’ property rights, you’d better come with a checkbook,” he said.

The newly-protected lands will include Hussman Ranch from Highway 88 to the Carson River toward the Ranchos, about 1,000 acres of the Byington Ranch on Genoa Lane, and 550 acres of the Scossa Ranch below Jobs Peak. The Nature Conservancy is also involved in preserving 800 acres on Muller Lane through these grants, Etchegoyhen said.

Under a conservation easement, property owners retain the use of the land, but promise not to do certain thing with it, such as develop it.

Properties must meet certain criteria to qualify for these easement funds and Etchegoyhen said he’s very hopeful that new Carson Valley properties will be nominated in the future.

Only five riparian valleys exist in Nevada and the open space in many is dwindling. He called the Carson Valley Nevada’s crown jewel.

“The Truckee Meadows are long gone. The Carson Valley is the most unique riparian valley in Nevada,” he said “We need to protect it.”

He said keeping the ranch lands intact is critical to preserving Douglas County’s economic future.

“When we protect a wide swath of open space, property values are enhanced,” he said. “People want to come here. It benefits the whole system.”

The need for a significant flood plan in Douglas County became apparent during the flood of 1997, when about 30,000 acres of the Valley floor was under water, Etchegoyhen said.

Much of that flood-sensitive land is now being divided into 20-acre parcels. Too big to mow and too small to plow, the land will be under water after the next flood and ultimately, Douglas taxpayers will foot the bill for remediation, he said.

“Ranch land stimulates the economy and it’s not a liability for taxpayers,” he said.

About 2,600 acres of Carson Valley agricultural land has already been set aside as open space through the county’s transfer development rights program.