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Private groups buy ranch near Genoa

Christy Chalmers, staff writer

Two private groups have bought a 788-acre ranch near Genoa, a move they say will protect a pristine river corridor and the agricultural uses around it.

The Nature Conservancy of Nevada will eventually acquire the newly-named River Fork Ranch from the Timken-Sturgis Foundation, which is paying $1.2 million of the $1.53 million price tag for the property, located east of Foothill Road and south of Genoa Lane. The seller is a firm called White Rabbit Associates.

“It’s the most biologically significant property in the Valley,” said Ame Hellman, The Nature Conservancy’s special projects director.

The transaction marks The Nature Conservancy’s first Carson Valley acquisition.

Hellman said the foundation’s equity in the property will be donated to The Nature Conservancy over 10 years. In coming months, the conservancy will begin studying the ranch and planning trails, habitat restoration and other long-term uses.

The ranch, which surrounds the confluence of the Carson River’s two forks and includes part of the Brockliss Slough, is one of Carson Valley’s oldest. Hellman and Judy Sturgis, treasurer of the foundation, said they will continue to lease the ranch to a private operator.

But they’re also looking forward to developing trails and an interpretive center and enhancing wildlife habitat on the property.

“Wildlife and ranching are very compatible if it’s done correctly. What we hope to do is have a showplace,” said Sturgis.

The land is home to many varieties of birds, deer, bobcats and other wildlife.

Sturgis said wildlife protection is one of the reasons the foundation got involved in the transaction.

“We are very concerned about the growth in the valley and the loss of wildlife habitat and green spaces,” said Sturgis, noting she’s lived in Carson Valley since 1950.

The transaction could bolster the chances of a quarter-cent sales tax hike that will be on Douglas County’s November ballot. If approved, proceeds from the sales tax increase could be used to help preserve undeveloped land.

Hellman said the River Fork Ranch purchase is a good example of potential preservation options.

“I think it could show the voters that these are some of the things that could happen if this (the sales tax) goes forward,” she said.

Suzy Stockdale, campaign manager for the pro-sales tax group, agreed.

“This is just the kind of initiative that we hope will spring up throughout the county to help us protect our working landscape before it is gone,” she said.

The Nature Conservancy still must raise $340,000 to complete the acquisition. Another $1.5 million will be needed to pay for trails, operating costs and other expected expenses, the group said.