Land sale may fund Ponderosa buyout

Revenue from a recent auction of federal land near Las Vegas is being recommended to buy about 490 acres on Lake Tahoe's North Shore that make up part of the famed Ponderosa Ranch.

Federal executives meeting in Las Vegas last week recommended that $35 million generated from the auction be used by the U.S. Forest Service to purchase the land, according to Jeannie Stafford, Forest Service environmental improvement program coordinator.

The recommendation still must be approved by Interior Secretary Gale Norton.

The sale of all 548 acres of the ranch, which served as the backdrop to the popular TV series "Bonanza," should be completed before the end of the year, said Jacques Etchegoyhen of Terra Firma, a Minden-based land conservation group that is working on the deal.

The family that owns the land contacted Terra Firma to ensure the ranch is sold, but not to developers. The 490 acres that would be purchased by the Forest Service would include a 9-acre parking lot and upland areas which include a creek.

Washoe County, Incline Village General Improvement District and Nevada State Lands might end up splitting the remaining 60 acres, Etchegoyhen said.

Revenue generated from the sale of federal land in Southern Nevada has been used by the Forest Service to acquire environmentally sensitive lands in the Lake Tahoe Basin since 1980, when the Santini-Burton Act became law.

The amount of federal land sold in Clark County increased in 1998 when the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act was created.

Through an amendment approved last year, the act also guarantees $300 million for the basin over the next eight years. The money can be spent on environmental restoration projects, but not land acquisition.

Proceeds from the act also fund statewide public education and water services. Nevada's General Education Fund receives 5 percent of revenue, and the Southern Nevada Water Authority gets 10 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

A land sale that generated $707 million was at Sam's Town in Las Vegas on June 2. The largest parcels sold was 1,940 acres. It was valued at $225 million, but sold at auction for $557 million.

In all, 71 parcels were auctioned, most of five or 10 acres. Bids for a 10-acre parcel topped out at $3.3 million.

Gregory Crofton may be reached at (530) 542-8045 or


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