Development not allowed at two meadows

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Two mountain meadows in the northern Sierra Nevada are off limits to developers, thanks to work by The Nature Conservancy.

The conservancy gained an easement preventing development on a 450-acre meadow that drains into the Little Truckee River.

The land is in eastern Sierra County about 20 miles north of Tahoe City. It includes more than a mile of the Little Truckee and Independence Creek. Streams, creeks and a lake in the area support seven species of native fish, including the Lahontan cutthroat trout.

The property is owned by the Ranz family. The family sold the easement to the conservancy at half its market value.

Jim Gaither, northern Sierra Nevada program leader at the conservancy, cited privacy concerns and would not release the amount paid for the easement.

The conservancy acquired another mountain meadow easement, a 485-acre parcel near Babbitt Peak in the Bald Mountain Range in November.

The Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California gave the easement to the conservancy immediately after Atlantic Richfield Co. bought the land for $720,000 and gave it to the tribe.

The ARCO land purchase was part of a settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over a 1998 agreement the company failed to make good on.

ARCO had promised the EPA it would treat contaminated drainage from the Leviathan Mine Superfund Site outside Markleeville. Inaction caused acid-filled drainage ponds to spill over and contaminate the Carson River watershed in the winter of 1998.

ARCO also had to help pay for a conservancy easement at the site as part of the settlement.

The conservancy, an international organization with headquarters in San Francisco, began working to preserve land in the northern Sierra in August 2000.

"We are working to protect other areas," Gaither said. "This is just one meadow valley region we're working in. These land transactions take time."


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