NSP is working in six priority landscapes across the northern Sierra Nevada to conserve and steward our region’s remarkable natural assets.

Northern Sierra Nevada Crest
Northern Sierra Nevada Crest

Projects in the Northern Sierra Nevada Crest landscape:

Sierra ButtesRoyal Gorge

When many people think of the Sierra Nevada, they think of the craggy peaks, glaciated lakes, and wildflower-carpeted meadows of the Sierra high country. Virtually all of this high country—from Tehachapi Pass to Desolation Wilderness—is protected in an unbroken sweep of national parks, wilderness areas, and national forests. But from the headwaters of the Rubicon River (just west of Lake Tahoe) north to the Sierra Buttes, the physical integrity of the Sierra crest is compromised by a checkerboard pattern of public-private ownership that heightens the risk of land fragmentation and interferes with good stewardship of both public and private land.

To address this problem, which dates back to the construction of the Transcontinental railroad in the 1860s, NSP is working with willing sellers to conserve and restore natural corridors along and below the northern Sierra Crest to maintain upstream water quality, improve forest health, increase carbon storage, enhance wildlife movement, provide a refuge for species as climate changes, and expand recreational enjoyment of this extraordinary landscape.

NSP and its partners have already made significant progress protecting the headwaters and river canyons of the North and Middle Forks of the American River and of the Middle Yuba and South Yuba rivers. Between 1990 and 2010, NSP and its partners succeeded in protecting over 30,000 acres along the Sierra crest with acquisitions and conservation easements.

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Greater Truckee
Greater Truckee

Projects in the Greater Truckee landscape:

Donner LakeWaddle Ranch

Over the past two decades, growing demand for homes and second homes in the Truckee environs has led to the conversion of thousands of acres of meadowlands and forest to low density residential development. NSP is working with local residents, state and local agencies, and other stakeholders to protect, and expand public access to, the open spaces that define Truckee and make it such an attractive place to live and visit.

Between 1990 and 2010, NSP and its partners succeeded in protecting over 10,000 acres in the greater Truckee landscape. Recent victories have included the preservation of Waddle Ranch in Martis Valley and the protection of Donner Lake through the purchase of Schallenberger Ridge, Billy Mack Canyon, Summit Canyon and portions of Negro Canyon.

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Little Truckee River Watershed
Little Truckee River Watershed

Projects in the Little Truckee River Watershed landscape:

Independence LakePerazzo MeadowsWebber Lake and Lacey Meadows

A region of snowy peaks, sub-alpine meadows, deep forests, and magnificent lakes, the Little Truckee River watershed is a primary source of drinking water for residents of northern Nevada and one of the few places on Earth that supports native populations of Lahontan cutthroat trout. Unfortunately, this watershed faces the same challenge of fragmented land ownership as the northern Sierra Nevada crest and is particularly vulnerable to development pressure because of its high scenic value and relatively easy access. With Truckee growing rapidly, protecting this watershed from resort development and rural sprawl has been an urgent priority for NSP.

NSP and its partners have made great headway in protecting this area over the past few years with the acquisition of Independence Lake, Webber Falls, Perazzo Meadows, and key parcels along Cold Stream. Together, these acquisitions have protected over 9,000 acres of land that faced either immediate or near-term development threats, including some of the crown jewels of the northern Sierra.

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Sierra Valley
Sierra Valley

Projects in the Sierra Valley landscape:

The Maddalena Property

The 120,000-acre Sierra Valley rivals Lake Tahoe in size and beauty, but remains one of California’s best-kept secrets. The Valley’s wetlands, which form the headwaters of the Middle Fork Feather River, support the greatest diversity and concentration of waterfowl, shorebirds, raptors, and other birds in the northern Sierra, and are a key stopover on the Pacific Flyway. Ranch families, many of whom have lived in the Valley since the late 19th century, own virtually all of the land on the valley floor, while most of the forested uplands lie within the Tahoe National Forest or the Plumas National Forest.

Today, rising land values, and the related challenge of transferring assets to the next generation, are forcing some landowners to sell or identify new strategies for holding onto their land. NSP and its partners have been helping ranch families understand how conservation transactions (both sales and donations) can be a tool for protecting their land from urban encroachment and meeting their financial and land stewardship objectives.

Since the late 1990s, NSP and other allies (including the Pacific Forest Trust and the California Rangeland Trust) have worked with landowners and public agencies to protect over 30,000 acres of private ranchland in the Sierra Valley from conversion to residential and commercial uses. Much of the southern end of the Sierra Valley is now conserved with easements, as are two of the three largest ranches in the Sierra Valley. These easements preserve wildlife habitat, help put the Sierra Valley’s ranching economy on a more stable, long-term footing, and provide new financial options to ranching families.

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Feather River Headwater Valleys
Feather River

Projects in the Feather River Headwater Valleys landscape:

Heart K RanchPearce Ranch

The Feather River watershed, the largest in the Sierra Nevada, is an enormous forested landscape that provides water to 65% of California’s population. When the region was settled by non-native people in the mid-19th century, the new residents established ranches and outposts in the beautiful, rich bottomlands known today as the headwater valleys: the Sierra Valley, Genesee Valley, Clover Valley, Indian Valley, Humbug Valley, Mountain Meadows, Last Chance Meadows, and others. Most of the surrounding forests and mountains were not claimed and were eventually incorporated into the Plumas National Forest.

The focus of NSP’s conservation work here is the protection of sensitive meadows, wetlands, and riparian areas in the headwater valleys, areas that are particularly important for wildlife and for their role in maintaining upstream water quality for the people of California. Unfortunately, the outstanding beauty of these valleys also makes them extremely attractive to homebuilders.

NSP and its partners have protected over 6,000 acres in the Feather River headwater valleys including the Goodwin Ranch in Clover Valley, the Matley Ranch in Last Chance Meadows, Heart K Ranch in the Genesee Valley, and the Pearce Ranch in Indian Valley. Most of these ranches abut federal lands. Their preservation ensures enhanced protection for streams, wetlands, riparian areas and meadows, allows for the free movement of wildlife across the landscape, from the forested uplands to lower elevation meadowlands, and supports the ranching economy in the Feather River watershed.

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Carson River Watershed
Carson River Watershed

Projects in the Carson River Watershed landscape:

River Fork RanchHope Valley

The Carson River watershed is a top priority for conservation in the eastern Sierra Nevada and the Great Basin. The headwaters of the Carson River sustain numerous portfolio sites for rare species such as the Paiute cutthroat trout and the lower Carson River as it flows through Carson Valley contains some of the most important wet meadows and wetlands in the Great Basin. The primary threats to the Carson River and its headwaters are real estate development and the destruction of aquatic, riparian and wet meadow habitat.

NSP and its partners have been working to protect the Carson River watershed since the 1980s. By 2000, the Trust for Public Land (TPL) had already protected over 25,000 acres in the upper watershed which were conveyed to federal, state and local government agencies for public enjoyment. The Nature Conservancy (TNC)—Nevada is now picking up where TPL left off, concentrating its work in the wet meadows of the Lower Carson River watershed as it flows through Carson Valley. TNC’s recent achievements include the establishment of the 800-acre River Fork Ranch Preserve, the construction of the new Whit-Hall Interpretive Center, and the preservation of three ranches under conservation easement totaling over 2,600 acres.

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