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Rancher offers alternative to easements

by Sharon Carter

All the talk of the Bureau of Land Management purchasing conservation easements and the possibility of voters underwriting agricultural operations to keep the Valley green has left Nate Leising very apprehensive.

Leising, who ranches a portion of the old Dressler Ranch in the Foothill area near Pleasantview and Green Acres drives, says he detests the ideas of selling off his property’s development rights or of asking his neighbors to pay extra taxes to help keep him in business.

“That doesn’t mean I want to develop my land, I don’t,” Leising said Thursday. “But, I also don’t want to strip it of rights. The land is my investment for the future, the thing of value I want to leave to my son. What happens if this (Douglas County) commission changes and the next one decides, for whatever reason, to pave over the Valley? The more people and growth, the harder it is (logistically) for me to conduct my business. If I’ve sold my development potential and used the money to support my operation, it’s just gone.”

Leising, a former Douglas County planning commissioner who now sits on the board of the Carson Valley Agricultural Association (CVAA), sees another possibility.

“We’re calling this the ’95-5′ proposal,” he said.

– Another option. The proposal, Leising said, is to allow owners to use up to 5 percent of their ranches or farms for non-agricultural purposes – say, convert a barn for light industrial use or a bunkhouse into offices. The idea is to allow owners to diversify their operations beyond traditional plant and animal production while maintaining the rural atmosphere.

“We wouldn’t ask for zoning changes or to break up the property,” he said. “We see this as a way to let agriculture help itself. If a company in Silicon Valley decides to move its research and development think tank off-site, and many do, what better place than here?”

Leising said much of the land surrounding his ranch has been subdivided into 20-acre homesites.

“We want to preserve the rural atmosphere, but urban (development) is encroaching. Putting in a lot of urban codes makes the costs of doing business so much higher that ag can’t survive if it’s limited to historic activities. Then the only other option is to sell.”

Leising said there are advantages for the county beyond maintaining open space.

“The non-ag areas on the ranches would not get the ag tax deferment so the county would collect more taxes and there’d be more jobs,” he said.

– Graduated inheritance taxes. If such arrangements were coupled with inheritance tax modifications that would allow agricultural appraisals for working farms and ranches rather than calculating inheritance taxes on development potential, Leising said, ranch operations could be kept large enough to be economically feasible.

CVAA was established last year by the Nevada Division of Agriculture, its eight board members appointed by then-Governor Bob Miller.

It is the newest agricultural district in the state, according to NDA Director Paul Iverson. Iverson said the state’s several other districts were established more than 20 years ago.

CVAA board members include Clarence Burr, Leising, Mark and Sally Neddenriep, Melvin Schwake Jr., Edric Schwake, and “Spec” and Pat Rahbeck.

“I don’t think these are the only answers or the right answers for everyone, but I think they could work for some people and could be combined with some of the other plans,” Leising said.

“All our goals – to preserve agriculture and open space – are the same, but our roads to get there are slightly different.”