Sierra Nevada Waterfall And Land Protected Near Tahoe

August 7, 2009

A 480-acre property containing a stunning 100-foot high waterfall has been permanently protected in the northern Sierra Nevada, The Trust for Public Land (TPL) and the Tahoe National Forest (TNF) announced today.

The property, near Webber Lake and north of Donner pass, was bought from Sierra Pacific Industries Inc. on April 30 and will soon be added to the Tahoe National Forest. Money for the purchase came from Federal Land and Water Conservation funds and from private philanthropy.

Protection of the property was a project of the Northern Sierra Partnership, formed in 2007 by TPL, Truckee Donner Land Trust, the Feather River Land Trust, Sierra Business Council and The Nature Conservancy to insure the environmental and economic sustainability of the northern Sierra.

David Sutton, director of TPL's Northern California program, said, "we are thankful to have the support of Sen. Dianne Feinstein(D-Calif.) for money from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, as well as the support of Gene and Elaine Smith and their family, to protect this beautiful example of the Sierra's watershed resources. Protection of this parcel from possible development is a big step toward protecting the integrity of the proposed Castle Peak Wilderness Area. It's also a major accomplishment for the Northern Sierra Partnership."

The property includes the headwaters of the Little Truckee River as it falls dramatically over cliffs just east of Webber Lake. The Little Truckee is a primary tributary in the Truckee River watershed and an important source of drinking water for the residents of Nevada and California.

"This is a beautiful area and we thank all the parties that have been instrumental in helping to acquire this land for the American public as a part of the Tahoe National Forest," said Tom Quinn, TNF Supervisor.

Money to buy the property came in part from an 88-year old private philanthropist named Gene Smith, who had vacationed in the north Truckee area for many years with his wife, Elaine. The Smiths, who live in Goleta, wanted to honor their connection to the area and memories of hiking and bike riding in the northern Sierra, and have been saving for many years to be able to make a contribution towards the protection of land near Truckee. Their children enthusiastically supported the protection of Webber Lake Falls.

"The beauty of the waterfall and the pristine nature of the land around the falls will be available for generations to come. I want my grandchildren to enjoy the land as I saw it decades ago."" said Gene Smith about his contribution to the protection of this property.

TPL, and more recently the Northern Sierra Partnership, has been working for more than 15 years on the checkerboard problem, which dates back to the 1860s, when the U.S. government granted alternating square miles of land to railroads as an incentive to complete the transcontinental and other railroad lines. The region contains rich biological habitat and recreation uses. But second-home development on private lands which are interspersed in the federal forests is a threat to the successful management of the land to protect it from fire, and protect the water and wildlife habitat.

Jim and Becky Morgan of the Morgan Family Foundation chair the Northern Sierra Partnership. "We formed the NSP because we were facing a critical window of opportunity in the northern Sierra, and we needed to approach this era with an integrated strategy," says Becky Morgan. The permanent protection of the Webber Lake Falls property is a flagship project of the Northern Sierra Partnership. As a result of this success and ongoing collaboration, "we are now better positioned to develop created responses to large, complex issues such as adapting to climate change and mitigating its impacts," she says. Protection of the Webber Lake Falls parcel is an example of newer partnerships involving public and private funding, where philanthropists step in to help support public funding and protect sensitive properties targeted for conservation.