A coalition of land trusts, funded mostly by tech entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley, have announced a $14 million deal to preserve 2,914 acres of wilderness just north of Truckee. The acquisition is part of a larger campaign to preserve 100,000 acres of wilderness between Tahoe and Lassen for wildlife, public recreation and water conservation.
“This is a very beautiful forested area that is really rich in wildlife,” said Lucy Blake, president of the Northern Sierra Partnership. “But it has been fragmented for years into different ownerships — timber companies, private owners, and others. We’ve been trying to conserve it as a connected natural landscape.”
The land was acquired by the Northern Sierra Partnership, which was founded in 2007 by Jim Morgan, the retired CEO of Santa Clara-based Applied Materials and his wife, Becky Morgan, a former California state senator. The partnership includes the participation of the Nature Conservancy, the Sierra Business Council, the Feather River Land Trust, Truckee Donner Land Trust and Trust for Public Land. So far, the group has acquired 93,787 acres of Northern California wilderness through $78 million in private donations.
Much of the area acquired by the coalition sits adjacent to the national forests of the Sierra Nevada like the Lassen National Forest, Plumas National Forest and Tahoe National Forest. Most of the land held privately in theses areas are owned by timber companies. The group has strategically mapped out the ownership of the area in an attempt to protect the remaining wilderness that’s privately held.
In the most recent acquisition, the group will be able to preserve the wilderness area surrounding Frog Lake, a high-alpine reservoir just off the Pacific Crest Trail owned as a vacation home by the family of once prominent San Francisco attorney Felix Smith. He purchased the land from the Southern Pacific Railroad in the 1930’s.
Other locations acquired by the Northern Sierra Partnership include Independence Lake, Castle Peak and the Royal Gorge, all in the surrounding wilderness areas of Tahoe.
The group’s mission is of particular importance as California has basically halted acquisition of land for public use. Although Governor Gavin Newsom has proposed the acquisition of an 80-square-mile ranch near Livermore to transform into a new California State Park, it would be the first of its kind in a decade.