In a deal struck between conservationists and a timber company after more than a decade of development warring, thousands of acres of highly coveted, picturesque Sierra forest will be forever preserved.
The 6,376 acres, encompassing a pristine meadow and Sierra mountaintop overlooking Lake Tahoe, are owned by Sierra Pacific Industries, a timber company who is now relinquishing development rights and selling the area to conservationists in exchange for their support of a 760-unit housing development in North Lake Tahoe between Truckee and Kings Beach.
Sierra Pacific Industries will eventually sell all their northern holdings in the area to conservationists, creating a protected wilderness of 50,000 acres, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
"This is the last piece of a vision we drew up for the Martis Valley," Tom Mooers, executive director of the conservation group Sierra Watch, told the Chronicle. "This defines what we consider priority conservation land. It is a combination of healthy forest, thriving wetlands and wildlife habitat, and it connects to other areas in the Sierra."
Sierra Pacific officials expressed equal satisfaction with the outcome. "It's a real positive thing for the community overall," spokesman Mark Pawlicki said.
Before the agreement is finalized, Placer County must approve and amend the Martis Valley Community Plan, a 2003 initiative that approved the construction of up to 1,360 homes in the contested area. Sierra Watch challenged the plan in 2005 with a court order suspending all approvals and activities under the community plan.