By Patrick Wright, Executive Director, California Tahoe Conservancy
(Published in the Sierra Sun on September 8, 2013)
The Sierra Sun recently published a column from Ann Nichols (My Turn: CA Tahoe Conservancy Selling off Protected Lands?) sounding an alarm that the Tahoe Conservancy is on the verge of selling hundreds of environmentally sensitive parcels. In fact, the Conservancy has no plans to sell or leave unprotected any of the thousands of environmentally sensitive parcels that we have acquired since 1985.
Last year, the Conservancy Board approved a set of guidelines to strictly limit sales of Conservancy-owned land. Under the guidelines, we will consider selling parcels only where they are not needed to achieve our conservation or recreation goals, or where state ownership is no longer necessary to achieve the goals of the original acquisition.
To date, the Conservancy has proceeded cautiously with potential sales or exchanges of the nearly 5,000 parcels it owns in the basin. The Board has authorized staff to market the sale of just four properties, all in South Lake Tahoe. Only two are currently listed for sale. Furthermore, the environmentally sensitive areas of these parcels are permanently protected through conservation easements.
One is a former drive-in movie theater site, where the Conservancy removed nearly 80,000 square feet of asphalt and restored the sensitive stream environment zone on the property. The other is the former Tallac Vista Conference Center we acquired to prevent the development of 150 condos, but that is too expensive to upgrade or maintain. Having achieved our goals and permanently protected the sensitive areas of these sites, the Conservancy is now making them available for sale to recover our costs and invest in other high priority conservation and recreation projects and programs.
The Conservancy may also consider selling a small number of other parcels in South Shore, including several parcels along U.S. Highway 50 in the Meyers commercial core area that we purchased for a visitor center that is no longer planned, and a couple of highly urbanized parcels at the “Y.” Sales of these commercially-zoned parcels would not only provide revenue to the Conservancy to invest in high priority projects and programs, but would support the development of sustainable, walkable and bikable town centers.
In the west and north shore, the Conservancy has purchased several developable parcels to acquire land coverage for mitigation purposes or for bike trails or other projects. At this time, we have no plans to sell or exchange any of these parcels. In any future sales or exchanges, any sensitive areas on these parcels would also be permanently protected.
We also acquired a parcel at the corner of Coon Street and State Route 28 in Kings Beach for the sole purpose of generating revenue to support ongoing maintenance of Conservancy parkland adjacent to Kings Beach State Recreation Area.
Finally, Nichols expressed concern that we plan to transfer about 1,000 acres of land adjacent to Burton Creek State Park (known as the Dollar Property) to California State Parks as part of a larger land transfer to consolidate public ownership of lands in the Tahoe basin. We acquired this magnificent parcel at Parks’ request in 1989 for $3.2 million, and are thrilled that it will finally be incorporated into Burton Creek State Park.
The Conservancy takes its commitment to restore and maintain its conservation and recreation lands very seriously, and the public has been overwhelmingly supportive of our thoughtful and measured approach. We encourage those interested in more information to read our guidelines and responses to frequently asked questions on our website at: https://tahoe.ca.gov/asset-land-sales