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*Photo by Sam Okamoto*

The Land Trust, and its partners, The Nature Conservancy and the Northern Sierra Partnership, are ecstatic to announce the acquisition of Lower Carpenter Valley. The Land Trust is now planning new trails and readying the property for public access. In the interim, docent led hikes are offered twice a week during the summer and autumn hiking seasons. 

The Carpenter Valley acquisition is 1,320 acres just north of Truckee’s Town boundary and Tahoe Donner. It includes over two thirds of the Valley comprised of a pristine meadow, healthy stands of willows, and two miles of the North Fork of Prosser Creek.

More specifically, Carpenter Valley contains a variety of habitat types and is a top priority for biodiversity conservation in the Sierra Nevada. The entire Valley, thanks to conservation-minded private landowners to the west and the previous owners, provides an extremely large, complex mixture of high quality Sierran habitat.  It includes wet meadow, fresh water emergent wetland, riverine, and fen habitat types, as well as red fir, lodgepole pine, and mixed-conifer forest. It supports wildlife species including black bear, mountain lion, bobcat, coyote, and various bird species and is summer range for the Loyalton-Truckee deer herd.  Several special-status species are likely found in Carpenter Valley including willow flycatcher, wolverine, mountain yellow-legged frog, and Pacific fisher.

If the Land Trust and its partners had not acquired the 600 acres in the lower meadow, it could easily have been subdivided into seven estate parcels.  The impacts from development would be devastating to the meadow and rich habitat the lower meadow provides.

“The Land Trust has done bigger deals in terms of ‘bucks and acres,’ but very few as important from a bio-diversity and ecological perspective. The resource values are unique, highly functioning and near pristine,” said John Svahn, the Land Trust’s Associate Director.

Given its size, healthy geomorphic condition, and hydrologic regime, Carpenter Valley retains a large quantity of runoff from the Sierra Crest.  During the summer, the meadow feeds Prosser Creek with clean, cold water, that in turn sustains high quality aquatic habitat in Prosser Creek and the Truckee River. It is, in short, an example of how a subalpine Sierra meadow should work. Federal and state officials have identified the North Fork of Prosser Creek that bisects the meadow as ideal for the recovery of native Lahontan cutthroat trout. These federally threatened fish have been documented in the creek as recently as the late 80s and may still be present.

The protection of this property is a key part of a larger conservation effort in the middle Truckee River basin. This basin includes the Little Truckee River and Prosser Creek, two of the largest tributaries to the Truckee River. Over 18,000 acres are now protected in the heart of the Sierra Nevada Checkerboard, a mosaic of alternating square mile sections of private and public ownership dating back to President Lincoln’s land grants

The first phase of the acquisition closed over a year ago. The Land Trust purchased 620 acres that included Crabtree Canyon, recorded a conservation easement on the property, and resold it to Tahoe Donner Association for inclusion in their summer and winter trail system. 

Other critical partners include the Wildlife Conservation Board, the California Natural Resources Agency, Tahoe Donner Association and the Skyview Foundation. 

Now, pop the champagne!

Greyson Howard